Effects of natural micro-fracture morphology, temperature and pressure on fluid flow in coals through fractal theory combined with lattice Boltzmann method

Li Qian, Dameng Liu, Yidong Cai* (Corresponding Author), Bo Zhao, Yuejian Lu, Yingfang Zhou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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The fluid flow behaviors during the production of coalbed methane (CBM) are generally restricted by the pre-existing natural fractures in coal seams. To better understand the effect of natural micro-fracture morphology on the flow capability, nine coals collected from Ordos Basin were subjected to optical microscope observations to obtain micro-fractures morphology. And then, the box-counting method (BCM) was used to quantify the complexity of the micro-fracture network planar distribution. Besides, the lattice Boltzmann method (LBM) was adopted to simulate the flow in the complex micro-fracture network under different pressures and temperatures. Finally, factors affecting the flow capability in micro-fracture were elaborated. The results show that the micro-fractures generally present dendritic, reticular, filamentous and orthogonal structures. The natural micro-fracture morphology has a remarkable impact on flow behavior, in which the presence of dominant channels with a length of ~498.26 μm and a width of ~10.96 μm has a significant contribution to permeability, while the orthogonal micro-fracture network normally is not conducive to fluid flow. The fractal dimension extracted from the nine coals varies from 1.321 to 1.584, and the permeability calculated from LBM method varies from 0.147 to 0.345 D; in contrast to other studies, a non-monotonic change, an inverted U-shaped, of permeability on fractal dimension was observed. Moreover, permeability decreases as pressure increases and increases with increasing temperature due to the physical properties of methane and coal matrix. Therefore, this work may contribute to understanding the process of hydrofracturing and hydrothermal methods for improving CBM reservoirs during enhancing CBM recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119468
Number of pages10
Volume286, Part 2
Issue number15
Early online date20 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 343 41830427, 41922016 and 41772160) and the Fundamental Research Funds for Central Universities (grant no. 2652019255). The authors also want to thank the Royal Society Edinburgh and NSFC to support their collaborations.


  • coal
  • micro-fractures morphology
  • permeability
  • fractal theory
  • Lattice Boltzmann method
  • Fractal theory
  • Micro-fractures morphology
  • Coal
  • Permeability


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