Geosciences at Virginia Tech

Graduate Students

Ryan Brandon
M.S. Student, Hydrogeosciences

Office:
3051 Derring Hall
+1.540.231.2404 (Phone)
+1.540.231.3386 (FAX)

Mailing Address:
4044 Derring Hall (0420)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Education:
B.S., Geosciences, Tennessee Tech University, 2011


Research Group:

Hydrogeosciences

Advisor:

Dr. Tom Burbey

Fracture Flow Research:

Previous research conducted at the Fractured Rock research Site (FRS) in Floyd County, Virginia has revealed important information concerning the structure and behavior of crystalline bedrock aquifers in the Blue Ridge physiographic province. While researchers have conducted significant work over the extent of this aquifer, little has been done to investigate processes at the single fracture scale. My current work focuses on determining the hydraulic characteristics of a fracture connection between two wells at FRS using a variety of hydrogeological tests and identifying regionally significant implications.

Using a combination of optical televiewer and heat-pulse flow meter logs, fractures intersecting the borehole walls are identified both visually and hydraulically. A series of rising and falling head slug tests are performed using packers to evaluate the near-borehole hydraulic conductivity, which fluctuates in the presence of non-Darcian flow and remains consistent during Darcian flow, for various applied heads. Isolation of the fracture of interest at each well with packers during aquifer testing allows for the determination of cross-borehole hydraulic conductivity and storativity, as well as an estimation of the average fracture aperture between wells using the cubic law. Finally, a pair of forced gradient tracer tests is used to investigate the behavior of contaminants within the fracture. Using both a conservative saline tracer and a non-conservative heat tracer, travel time between wells is calculated. In addition, details about a contaminant’s preferred pathway are identified using the shape of the breakthrough curves and a numerical model of an equivalent homogeneous medium.

By combining the data collected from multiple tests, a comprehensive description of the fracture and its hydraulic characteristics is obtained. The evaluation of these methods for characterizing fractures is also important for the purpose of finding effective techniques for analyzing these features in both the Blue Ridge province and other localities of fractured crystalline rock.

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