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The challenge

Predicting rock mass behaviour

Rock mass is a common medium for facilities like storage areas, energy extraction areas, wells, tunnels, underground power stations – these can exist in a variety of rock types and under different rock mechanical conditions. It's vital that we ensure the long-term stability of these rock masses, and understand how they behave under different conditions.

A FRACOD model of simulating hydraulic fracturing process in a rock mass with pre-existing fractures

While there are many modelling tools to predict this behaviour when assuming the rock mass is continuous, there has been very little approaches that can model the explicit fracture initiation and propagation process using fracture mechanics.

Our response

An international partnership

Through a partnership with Posiva, Finland's largest nuclear waste management company, Korea Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources (KIGAM), Shandong University of Science and Technology (SDUST) and nine other international organisations, we sought to develop a unique numerical modelling tool to predict rock fracturing behaviour under various mechanical, thermal and hydraulic forces.

Posvia operates an underground research laboratory at the depth of about 400-450 metres to conduct various in situ tests on rock mass. We worked alongside them, and other research partners, to test and develop our solution.

The results

FRACOD – simulating fracture behaviour

Alongside our project partners, we developed the FRACOD computer software tool which allows us to analyse the particulars of each rock engineering interaction. FRACOD is unique whereby it can model the explicit fracture initiation and propagation process using fracture mechanics approach.

FRACOD has already been used in real-world applications, and a book and a number of technical reports and journal papers have been published.

The project is supported by CSIRO Energy (Australia), Posiva Oy (Finland), SK Engineering and Constructions (South Korea), Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (South Korea), Shandong University of Science and Technology (China); Korea Institute of Geoscience and Material Resources (South Korea); Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (South Korea); Chinese Academy of Science Wuhan Institute (China); Dalian University of Technology & MechSoft Ltd (China); Seoul National University (South Korea), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (USA), Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Aalto University (Finland), GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience (Germany), and Taiyuan University of Technology (China).

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