Xiaodong Ma Publications

Dr. Xiaodong Ma

Senior Research Assistant


Mailing Address
Dr. Xiaodong Ma
Geothermal Energy & Geofluids
Institute of Geophysics
NO F 27
Sonneggstrasse 5
CH-8092 Zurich Switzerland

Phone +41 44 633 8175
Email xiama(at)ethz.ch

Dominique Ballarin Dolfin
Phone +41 44 632 3465
Email ballarin(at)ethz.ch


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Underlined names are links to current or past GEG members


Li, Z., X. Ma, X.-Z. Kong, M.O. Saar, and D. Vogler, Permeability evolution during pressure-controlled shear slip in saw-cut and natural granite fractures, Rock Mechanics Bulletin, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rockmb.2022.100027 [View Abstract]Fluid injection into rock masses is involved during various subsurface engineering applications. However, elevated fluid pressure, induced by injection, can trigger shear slip(s) of pre-existing natural fractures, resulting in changes of the rock mass permeability and thus injectivity. However, the mechanism of slip-induced permeability variation, particularly when subjected to multiple slips, is still not fully understood. In this study, we performed laboratory experiments to investigate the fracture permeability evolution induced by shear slip in both saw-cut and natural fractures with rough surfaces. Our experiments show that compared to saw-cut fractures, natural fractures show much small effective stress when the slips induced by triggering fluid pressures, likely due to the much rougher surface of the natural fractures. For natural fractures, we observed that a critical shear displacement value in the relationship between permeability and accumulative shear displacement: the permeability of natural fractures initially increases, followed by a permeability decrease after the accumulative shear displacement reaches a critical shear displacement value. For the saw-cut fractures, there is no consistent change in the measured permeability versus the accumulative shear displacement, but the first slip event often induces the largest shear displacement and associated permeability changes. The produced gouge material suggests that rock surface damage occurs during multiple slips, although, unfortunately, our experiments did not allow quantitatively continuous monitoring of fracture surface property changes. Thus, we attribute the slip-induced permeability evolution to the interplay between permeability reductions, due to damages of fracture asperities, and permeability enhancements, caused by shear dilation, depending on the scale of the shear displacement.

Ma, X., et al., M.O. Saar, and et al., Multi-disciplinary characterizations of the BedrettoLab – a new underground geoscience research facility, Solid Earth, 13, pp. 301-322, 2022. https://doi.org/10.5194/se-13-301-2022 [View Abstract]The increased interest in subsurface development (e.g., unconventional hydrocarbon, engineered geothermal systems (EGSs), waste disposal) and the associated (trig- gered or induced) seismicity calls for a better understand- ing of the hydro-seismo-mechanical coupling in fractured rock masses. Being able to bridge the knowledge gap be- tween laboratory and reservoir scales, controllable meso- scale in situ experiments are deemed indispensable. In an effort to access and instrument rock masses of hectometer size, the Bedretto Underground Laboratory for Geosciences and Geoenergies (“BedrettoLab”) was established in 2018 in the existing Bedretto Tunnel (Ticino, Switzerland), with an average overburden of 1000 m. In this paper, we introduce the BedrettoLab, its general setting and current status. Com- bined geological, geomechanical and geophysical methods were employed in a hectometer-scale rock mass explored by several boreholes to characterize the in situ conditions and internal structures of the rock volume. The rock volume fea- tures three distinct units, with the middle fault zone sand- wiched by two relatively intact units. The middle fault zone unit appears to be a representative feature of the site, as sim- ilar structures repeat every several hundreds of meters along the tunnel. The lithological variations across the character- ization boreholes manifest the complexity and heterogene- ity of the rock volume and are accompanied by compart- mentalized hydrostructures and significant stress rotations. With this complexity, the characterized rock volume is con- sidered characteristic of the heterogeneity that is typically encountered in subsurface exploration and development. The BedrettoLab can adequately serve as a test-bed that allows for in-depth study of the hydro-seismo-mechanical response of fractured crystalline rock masses.

Ma, X., M. Hertrich, et. al, F. Amann, V. Gischig, T. Driesner, S. Löw, H. Maurer, M.O. Saar, S. Wiemer, and D. Giardini, Multi-disciplinary characterizations of the Bedretto Lab - a unique underground geoscience research facility, Solid Earth, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-109 [View Abstract]Xiaodong Ma1, Marian Hertrich1, Kai Bröker1, Nima Gholizadeh Doonechaly1, Rebecca Hochreutener1, Philipp Kästli1, Hannes Krietsch3, Michèle Marti1, Barbara Nägeli1, Morteza Nejati1, Anne Obermann21, Katrin Plenkers1, Alexis Shakas1, Linus Villiger1, Quinn Wenning1, Alba Zappone1, Falko Bethmann2, Raymi Castilla2, Francisco Seberto2, Peter Meier2, Florian Amann3, Valentin Gischig4, Thomas Driesner1, Simon Löw1, Hansruedi Maurer1, Martin O. Saar1, Stefan Wiemer1, Domenico Giardini1 1Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, Zürich, 8092, Switzerland 2 Swiss Seismological Service, ETH Zurich, Zürich, 8092, Switzerland 2Geo-Energie Suisse, AG, Zürich, 8004, Switzerland 3Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, RWTH Aachen, Aachen, 52062, Germany 4CSD Ingenieure AG, Liebefeld, 3097, Switzerland Correspondence to: Xiaodong Ma (xiaodong.ma@erdw.ethz.ch)

Zhang, S., and X. Ma, Global Frictional Equilibrium via Stochastic, Local Coulomb Frictional Slips, ESSOAr, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1002/essoar.10503438.1

Gischig, V.S., D. Giardini, F. Amann, "et al.", Keith F. Evans, "et al.", A. Kittilä, X. Ma, "et al.", M.O. Saar, and "et al.", Hydraulic stimulation and fluid circulation experiments in underground laboratories: Stepping up the scale towards engineered geothermal systems, Geomechanics for Energy and the Environment, 100175, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gete.2019.100175 [View Abstract]The history of reservoir stimulation to extract geothermal energy from low permeability rock (i.e. so-called petrothermal or engineered geothermal systems, EGS) highlights the difficulty of creating fluid pathways between boreholes, while keeping induced seismicity at an acceptable level. The worldwide research community sees great value in addressing many of the unresolved problems in down-scaled in-situ hydraulic stimulation experiments. Here, we present the rationale, concepts and initial results of stimulation experiments in two underground laboratories in the crystalline rocks of the Swiss Alps. A first experiment series at the 10 m scale was completed in 2017 at the Grimsel Test Site, GTS. Observations of permeability enhancement and induced seismicity show great variability between stimulation experiments in a small rock mass body. Monitoring data give detailed insights into the complexity of fault stimulation induced by highly heterogeneous pressure propagation, the formation of new fractures and stress redistribution. Future experiments at the Bedretto Underground Laboratory for Geoenergies, BULG, are planned to be at the 100 m scale, closer to conditions of actual EGS projects, and a step closer towards combining fundamental process-oriented research with testing techniques proposed by industry partners. Thus, effective and safe hydraulic stimulation approaches can be developed and tested, which should ultimately lead to an improved acceptance of EGS.

Ma, X., M.O. Saar, and L.-S. Fan, Coulomb Criterion - Bounding Crustal Stress Limit and Intact Rock Failure: Perspectives, Powder Technology, 374, pp. 106-110, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.powtec.2020.07.044 [View Abstract]In this perspective article, we illustrate the importance and versatility of the Coulomb criterion that serves as a bridge between the fields of powder technology and rock mechanics/geomechanics. We first describe the essence of the Coulomb criterion and its physical meaning, revealing surprising similarities regarding its applica- tions between both fields. We then discuss the rock mechanics applications and limitations at two extreme scales, the Earth's crust (tens of kilometers) and intact rocks (meters). We finally offer thoughts on bridging these scales. The context of the article is essential not only to the rock mechanics/geomechanics community but also to a broader powder technology community.