Publication: Which fractures are imaged with Ground Penetrating Radar? Results from an experiment in the Äspö Hardrock Laboratory, Sweden

in Engineering Geology (Volume 273, August 2020)
by Justine Molron, Niklas Linde, Ludovic Baron, Jan-Olof Selroos, Caroline Darcel, Philippe Davy


Identifying fractures in the subsurface is crucial for many geomechanical and hydrogeological applications. Here, we assess the ability of the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) method to image open fractures with sub-mm apertures in the context of future deep disposal of radioactive waste. GPR experiments were conducted in a tunnel located 410 m below sea level within the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory (Sweden) using 3-D surface-based acquisitions (3.4 m × 19 m) with 160 MHz, 450 MHz and 750 MHz antennas. The nature of 17 identified GPR reflections was analyzed by means of three new boreholes (BH1-BH3; 9–9.5 m deep). Out of 21 injection and outflow tests in packed-off 1-m sections, only five provided responses above the detection threshold with the maximum transmissivity reaching 7.0 × 10−10 m2/s. Most GPR reflections are situated in these permeable regions and their characteristics agree well with core and Optical Televiewer data. A 3-D statistical fracture model deduced from fracture traces on neighboring tunnel walls show that the GPR data mainly identify fractures with dips between 0 and 25°. Since the GPR data are mostly sensitive to open fractures, we deduce that the surface GPR method can identify 80% of open sub-horizontal fractures. We also find that the scaling of GPR fractures in the range of 1–10 m2 agrees well with the statistical model distribution indicating that fracture lengths are preserved by the GPR imaging (no measurement bias). Our results suggests that surface-GPR carries the resolution needed to identify the most permeable sub-horizontal fractures even in very low-permeability formations, thereby, suggesting that surface-GPR could play an important role in geotechnical workflows, for instance, for industrial-scale siting of waste canisters below tunnel floors in nuclear waste repositories.

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Publication: Time-lapse cross-hole electrical resistivity tomography (CHERT) for monitoring seawater intrusion dynamics in a Mediterranean aquifer

in HESS (April 2020)
by Andrea Palacios, Juan José Ledo, Niklas Linde, Linda Luquot, Fabien Bellmunt, Albert Folch, Alex Marcuello, Pilar Queralt, Philippe A. Pezard, Laura Martinez, Laura del Val, David Bosch, Jesus Carrera


Surface electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) is a widely used tool to study seawater intrusion (SWI). It is noninvasive and offers a high spatial coverage at a low cost, but its imaging capabilities are strongly affected by decreasing resolution with depth. We conjecture that the use of CHERT (cross-hole ERT) can partly overcome these resolution limitations since the electrodes are placed at depth, which implies that the model resolution does not decrease at the depths of interest. The objective of this study is to test the CHERT for imaging the SWI and monitoring its dynamics at the Argentona site, a well-instrumented field site of a coastal alluvial aquifer located 40 km NE of Barcelona. To do so, we installed permanent electrodes around boreholes attached to the PVC pipes to perform time-lapse monitoring of the SWI on a transect perpendicular to the coastline. After 2 years of monitoring, we observe variability of SWI at different timescales: (1) natural seasonal variations and aquifer salinization that we attribute to long-term drought and (2) short-term fluctuations due to sea storms or flooding in the nearby stream during heavy rain events. The spatial imaging of bulk electrical conductivity allows us to explain non-monotonic salinity profiles in open boreholes (step-wise profiles really reflect the presence of freshwater at depth). By comparing CHERT results with traditional in situ measurements such as electrical conductivity of water samples and bulk electrical conductivity from induction logs, we conclude that CHERT is a reliable and cost-effective imaging tool for monitoring SWI dynamics.

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Publication: Time-Lapse Seismic and Electrical Monitoring of the Vadose Zone during A Controlled Infiltration Experiment at the Ploemeur Hydrological Observatory, France

in Water (April 2020)
by Lara Blazevic, Ludovic Bodet, Sylvain Pasquet, Niklas Linde, Damien Jougnot, Laurent Longuevergne


The vadose zone is the main host of surface and subsurface water exchange and has important implications for ecosystems functioning, climate sciences, geotechnical engineering, and water availability issues. Geophysics provides a means for investigating the subsurface in a non-invasive way and at larger spatial scales than conventional hydrological sensors. Time-lapse hydrogeophysical applications are especially useful for monitoring flow and water content dynamics. Largely dominated by electrical and electromagnetic methods, such applications increasingly rely on seismic methods as a complementary approach to describe the structure and behavior of the vadose zone. To further explore the applicability of active seismics to retrieve quantitative information about dynamic processes in near-surface time-lapse settings, we designed a controlled water infiltration experiment at the Ploemeur Hydrological Observatory (France) during which successive periods of infiltration were followed by surface-based seismic and electrical resistivity acquisitions. Water content was monitored throughout the experiment by means of sensors at different depths to relate the derived seismic and electrical properties to water saturation changes. We observe comparable trends in the electrical and seismic responses during the experiment, highlighting the utility of the seismic method to monitor hydrological processes and unsaturated flow. Moreover, petrophysical relationships seem promising in providing quantitative results.

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Publication: Effect of solute concentration on the spectral induced polarization response of calcite precipitation

in Geophysical Journal International Volume 220, Issue 2, February 2020, Pages 1187-1196
by Satoshi Izumoto, Johan Alexander Huisman, Yuxin Wu, Harry Vereecken


Induced calcite precipitation is used in geotechnics to modify the mechanical and hydrological properties of the underground. Laboratory experiments have shown that spectral induced polarization (SIP) measurements can detect calcite precipitation. However, the results of previous studies investigating the SIP response of calcite precipitation were not fully consistent.

This study aims to investigate how the SIP response of calcite depends on solute concentration to explain the differences in SIP response observed in previous studies. A four-phase experiment with SIP measurements on a column filled with sand was performed. In phase I, calcite precipitation was generated for a period of 12 d by co-injecting Na2CO3 and CaCl2 solutions through two different ports. This resulted in a well-defined calcite precipitation front, which was associated with an increase in the imaginary part of the conductivity (⁠σ′′σ′′⁠). In phase II, diluted solutions were injected into the column. This resulted in a clear decrease in σ′′σ′′⁠. In phase III, the injection of the two solutions was stopped while calcite precipitation continued and solute concentrations in the mixing zone decreased. Again, this decreased σ′′σ′′⁠. Finally, the injection rate of the Na2CO3 solution was reduced relative to that of the CaCl2 solution in phase IV. This resulted in a shift of the mixing zone away from the calcite precipitation front established in phase I and an associated decrease of σ′′σ′′⁠.

These results imply that the SIP response of calcite is highly sensitive to the solute concentration near the precipitates, which may explain previously reported conflicting results.

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Publication: A cross-validation framework to extract data features for reducing structural uncertainty in subsurface heterogeneity

in Advances in Water Resources Vol 133 (November 2019)
by Jorge Lopez-Alvis, Thomas Hermans, Frédéric Nguyen


Spatial heterogeneity is a critical issue in the management of water resources. However, most studies do not consider uncertainty at different levels in the conceptualization of the subsurface patterns, for example using one single geological scenario to generate an ensemble of realizations.

In this paper, we represent the spatial uncertainty by the use of hierarchical models in which higher-level parameters control the structure. Reduction of uncertainty in such higher-level structural parameters with observation data may be done by updating the complete hierarchical model, but this is, in general, computationally challenging.

To address this, methods have been proposed that directly update these structural parameters by means of extracting lower dimensional representations of data called data features that are informative and applying a statistical estimation technique using these features.

The difficulty of such methods, however, lies in the choice and design of data features, i.e. their extraction function and their dimensionality, which have been shown to be case-dependent. Therefore, we propose a cross-validation framework to properly assess the robustness of each designed feature and make the choice of the best feature more objective. Such framework aids also in choosing the values for the parameters of the statistical estimation technique, such as the bandwidth for kernel density estimation.

We demonstrate the approach on a synthetic case with cross-hole ground penetrating radar traveltime data and two higher-level structural parameters: discrete geological scenarios and the continuous preferential orientation of channels.

With the best performing features selected according to the cross-validation score, we successfully reduce the uncertainty for these structural parameters in a computationally efficient way. While doing so, we also provide guidelines to design features accounting for the level of knowledge of the studied system.

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