Alex Bond recently attended the second International Conference on Discrete Fracture Network Engineering (DFNE-2018), held in Seattle, USA. The meeting immediately followed the American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA) Symposium 2018, attracting over 200 delegates from a wide range of backgrounds, including surface rock stability, waste management, groundwater resources, oil and gas and unconventional gas extraction.
At the meeting Alex presented a paper summarising work from Task C1 of DECOVALEX-2015 (Coupled THMC modelling of single fractures in novaculite and granite) and also chaired a session on flow and transport through fractured rocks. Through careful choice of keynote speakers, the conference gave an excellent overview of the current state-of-the-art of discrete fracture network analysis, as well as future challenges and directions for future research. Of particular interest was the very large datasets that are now being generated from the ONKALO facility in Finland, with the attendant opportunities to make blind predictions of fracture network characteristics and the need to reconcile the scale-dependent geological observations of fracture networks and the scale-dependent hydraulic characteristics of these systems.
Overall the meeting showed that while good progress is being made, the issues associated with understanding fracture networks on the basis of very limited data, both in terms of space of time, and generating robust statistical representations of these systems for different end uses (rock stability, fluid flow, contaminant transport) continue to present a major challenge.