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A likely universal model of fracture scaling and its consequence for crustal hydromechanics

Abstract : We argue that most fracture systems are spatially organized according to two main regimes: a "dilute" regime for the smallest fractures, where they can grow independently of each other, and a "dense" regime for which the density distribution is controlled by the mechanical interactions between fractures. We derive a density distribution for the dense regime by acknowledging that, statistically, fractures do not cross a larger one. This very crude rule, which expresses the inhibiting role of large fractures against smaller ones but not the reverse, actually appears be a very strong control on the eventual fracture density distribution since it results in a self-similar distribution whose exponents and density term are fully determined by the fractal dimension D and a dimensionless parameter g that encompasses the details of fracture correlations and orientations. The range of values for D and g appears to be extremely limited, which makes this model quite universal. This theory is supported by quantitative data on either fault or joint networks. The transition between the dilute and dense regimes occurs at about a few tenths of a kilometer for faults systems and a few meters for joints. This remarkable difference between both processes is likely due to a large-scale control (localization) of the fracture growth for faulting that does not exist for jointing. Finally, we discuss the consequences of this model on the flow properties and show that these networks are in a critical state, with a large number of nodes carrying a large amount of flow.
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Philippe Davy, Romain Le Goc, Caroline Darcel, Olivier Bour, Jean-Raynald de Dreuzy, et al.. A likely universal model of fracture scaling and its consequence for crustal hydromechanics. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 2010, 115 (B10), pp.B10411. ⟨10.1029/2009JB007043⟩. ⟨insu-00605039⟩



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