Project title: Development of fracture in weakly consolidated media

Supervisors: Prof Peter King and Prof Rafi Blumenfeld

Project description:

Development of fractures in weakly consolidated geomaterials is of importance in the enhancement of permeability to fluid flow, but it is not understood on any level, from the fundamental to the empirical. There are several physical mechanisms involved in this process, none of which is described well by conventional elasticity or elasto-plasticity theories. Thus, a prerequisite for better modelling is an improved understanding of how the fluid flow drives the granular mechanics during fracture initiation, fracture closure and reopening. This is directly related to the general failure of inhomogeneous and disordered materials.         

The aim of this project is to develop a fundamental and practical understanding of the processes that govern this phenomenon and construct theoretical and numerical models to describe it. The modelling will be on the continuum scale, incorporating knowledge from discrete grain-scale science. The modelling will then be tested against existing and planned experimental measurements. This project is part of a wider collaboration with BP (www.BP.com), one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and the engineering department at Cambridge University which will be responsible for the experimental validation of the numerical models.