The hybrid dimensional representation of permeability tensor: A reinterpretation of the discrete fracture model and its extension on nonconforming meshes

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Department of Mathematical Sciences


The discrete fracture model (DFM) has been widely used in the simulation of fluid flow in fractured porous media. Traditional DFM uses the so-called hybrid-dimensional approach to treat fractures explicitly as low-dimensional entries (e.g. line entries in 2D media and face entries in 3D media) on the interfaces of matrix cells and then couple the matrix and fracture flow systems together based on the principle of superposition with the fracture thickness used as the dimensional homogeneity factor. Because of this methodology, DFM is considered to be limited on conforming meshes and thus may raise difficulties in generating high quality unstructured meshes due to the complexity of fracture's geometrical morphology. In this paper, we clarify that the DFM actually can be extended to non-conforming meshes without any essential changes. To show it clearly, we provide another perspective for DFM based on hybrid-dimensional representation of permeability tensor to describe fractures as one-dimensional line Dirac delta functions contained in permeability tensor. A finite element DFM scheme for single-phase flow on non-conforming meshes is then derived by applying Galerkin finite element method to it. Analytical analysis and numerical experiments show that our DFM automatically degenerates to the classical finite element DFM when the mesh is conforming with fractures. Moreover, the accuracy and efficiency of the model on non-conforming meshes are demonstrated by testing several benchmark problems. This model is also applicable to curved fracture with variable thickness.

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© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Computational Physics