Estimation of REV size and three-dimensional hydraulic conductivity tensor for a fractured rock mass through a single well packer test and discrete fracture fluid flow modeling

M. Wang, P. H.S.W. Kulatilake, J. Um, J. Narvaiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

90 Scopus citations


A new methodology is presented to determine the representative elementary volume (REV) size and three-dimensional (3-D) hydraulic conductivity tensor for a fractured rock mass. First, a 3-D stochastic fracture network model was built and validated for a gneissic rock mass based on the fracture data mapped from scanline surveys at the site. This validated fracture network model was combined with the fracture data observed on a borehole to generate a stochastic-deterministic fracture network system in a cubic block around each packer test conducted at a different depth region in the same borehole. Each packer test was simulated numerically applying a developed discrete fracture fluid flow model to estimate the influenced region or effective range for the packer test. A cubic block of size 18 m, with the packer test interval of length about 6.5 m located at the centre of this block, was found to be suitable to represent the influenced region. Using this block size, the average flow rate per unit hydraulic gradient (defined as the transmissivity multiplied by mean width of flow paths) field for fractures was calibrated at different depth regions around the borehole by numerically simulating the packer tests conducted at different depth regions. The average flow rate per unit hydraulic gradient of the fractures that intersect the borehole was considered to be quite different to the average flow rate per unit hydraulic gradient of the fractures that do not intersect the borehole. A relation was developed to quantity the ratio between these two parameters. By studying the directional hydraulic conductivity behaviour of different cubic block sizes having the validated stochastic fracture network and calibrated hydraulic parameters, a REV for the hydraulic behaviour of the rock mass was estimated to be a block size of 15 m. The hydraulic conductivity tensor in 3-D computed through regression analysis using the calculated directional hydraulic conductivity values in many directions was found to be significantly anisotropic. The principal directions of the hydraulic conductivity tensor were found to be agreeable with the existing fracture system of the site. Further, the geometric hydraulic conductivity calculated was found to be comparable to the hydraulic conductivity estimated through the radial flow assumption in continuum porous media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-904
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002



  • Calibration
  • Discrete fracture fluid flow modeling
  • Field study
  • Fracture mapping
  • Hydraulic conductivity tensor
  • Hydrogeology
  • Numerical modeling
  • Representative elementary volume
  • Single well packer tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology

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