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Hydraulic tomography: 3D hydraulic conductivity, fracture network, and connectivity in mudstone

June 12, 2019

We present the first demonstration of hydraulic tomography (HT) to estimate the three-dimensional (3D) hydraulic conductivity (K) distribution of a fractured aquifer at high-resolution field scale (HRFS), including the fracture network and connectivity through it. We invert drawdown data collected from packer-isolated borehole intervals during 42 pumping tests in a wellfield at the former Naval Air Warfare Center, West Trenton, New Jersey, in the Newark Basin. Five additional tests were reserved for a quality check of HT results. We used an equivalent porous medium forward model and geostatistical inversion to estimate 3D K at high resolution (K blocks <1 m3), using no strict assumptions about K variability or fracture statistics. The resulting 3D K estimate ranges from approximately 0.1 (highest-K fractures) to approximately 10−13 m/s (unfractured mudstone). Important estimated features include: (1) a highly fractured zone (HFZ) consisting of a sequence of high-K bedding-plane fractures; (2) a low-K zone that disrupts the HFZ; (3) several secondary fractures of limited extent; and (4) regions of very low-K rock matrix. The 3D K estimate explains complex drawdown behavior observed in the field. Drawdown tracing and particle tracking simulations reveal a 3D fracture network within the estimated K distribution, and connectivity routes through the network. Model fit is best in the shallower part of the wellfield, with high density of observations and tests. The capabilities of HT demonstrated for 3D fractured aquifer characterization at HRFS may support improved in situ remediation for contaminant source zones, and applications in mining, repository assessment, or geotechnical engineering.

Publication Year 2020
Title Hydraulic tomography: 3D hydraulic conductivity, fracture network, and connectivity in mudstone
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12915
Authors Claire R. Tiedeman, Warren Barrash
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Index ID 70221772
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division