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Rock fracturing is key to mining stability, coal-seam gas extraction, tunnelling, geothermal energy, underground nuclear waste disposal and many other rock-engineering industries. Modern rock mechanics and the development of unique numerical tools is enabling accurate prediction of how fractures will form

The challenge

Predicting rock mass behaviour

Rock fracturing is one of the key issues in modern mining and energy industries.

From a safety perspective, mine tunnel collapses often start when a fracture is initiated and propagates and coalesces.

From an extraction perspective, hydraulic fracturing of rock and coal are the key method to enhance extraction in the petroleum and CSG industries.

In geothermal energy, reservoir stimulation through fluid injection into a fracture system is standard for development of the resource.

Accurate prediction of rock-fracture propagation is challenging.

Rock fracture propagation is a complex process interlinked with mechanical, thermal and hydraulic processes in the rock mass.

Developing this modelling capability is important to modern rock mechanics, which is improving safety and efficiency across the resources industry.

Our response

An international partnership

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

Since 2007, we have been leading an international collaboration group which has developed a unique modelling tool to predict rock-fracturing processes coupled with mechanical, thermal, and hydraulic forces.

More than 15 institutes from Australia, Europe, USA, China and South Korea have participated and supported this collaborative research.

To date, two unique numerical tools have been developed to predict rock fracturing - FRACOD2D and FRACOD3D.

These tools have been compared and cross-validated with existing commercially available tools. 

They have also been successfully applied to real-life case studies, including geothermal energy in Pohang South Korea, nuclear waste disposal in Onkalo, Finland, and mine water inrush in China. It was also used in a proof-of-concept geothermal project in Cooper Basin, South Australia.

The results

A powerful research collaboration

Since 2007, the FRACOD2D and FRACOD3D numerical tools have been developed by the collaboration.

These tools have the unique capability of predicting explicit rock fracture propagation in rock masses.

The project has enhanced worldwide research on rock-fracturing modelling. It was completed in three phases.

  • 1st phase (2007 – 2011) with 6 international partners
  • 2nd phase (2012 - 2015) with 9 international partners
  • 3rd phase (2016 - 2020) with 13 international partners

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