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Fracturing rock's computer simulations.

Fracturing rock's computer simulations

Rock fractures behave differently in the ground than predicted by laboratory experiments, a new study finds. The research suggests that computer simultations of the flow of gas and liquid through rock, based on laboratory data, provide unreliable answers to people planning disposal sites for hazardous chemicals and nuclear wastes, says Leslie Sour Gertsch of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Spokane, Wash.

In a Colorado mine, Gertsch cut out a block of rock about 2 meters square b 2.3 meters deep, leaving it attached at the base. Jacks placed on its four sides allowed her to compress the rock and study the effects of the stress on a natural fracture. She found that compression failed to reduce nitrogen seepage through the fracture at the rates predicted, and that it actually increased the flow in the middle part of the fracture.

"I was forced to conclude that a lot more fractures [in the rock] connected to that fracture than I realized," Gertsch says. "These fractures affect both the conductivity of that simple fracture and how it reacts to that [compression] load." What happens to rock in situ "is much more [complicated] than we currently are able to measure," she adds, which means "we cannot supply the data that are important to these models."
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Title Annotation:rock fractures
Author:Young, Patrick
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 3, 1990
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