Linking permeability to crack density evolution in thermally stressed rocks under cyclic loading

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Abstract

[1] To improve our understanding of the complex coupling between circulating fluids and the development of crack damage, we performed flow-through tests on samples of Etna basalt and Westerly granite that were cyclically loaded by deviatoric stresses. The basalt was naturally microfractured, while the relatively crack-free Westerly granite was thermally pretreated to 500°C and 800°C to generate microcrack damage. Samples were repeatedly loaded and then unloaded under deviatoric stress paths and ultimately to failure. Permeability and water volume content were measured throughout the loading history together with the differential stress. Permeability decreases at low differential stresses and increases at intermediate differential stresses up to a steady value at failure. We use water volume content as a proxy for fluid storage and show that both permeability and storage evolve with damage and evolution of crack density. We use crack models to represent the evolution of permeability as a function of loading state and are able to independently link it to the observed evolution of deformability, used as an independent measure of crack density.

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