A finite-element model has been developed to simulate the behaviour of rock mass to be utilised for underground storage of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The model will be used to assess the technical and commercial viability of LNG storage in unlined rock caverns for different geotechnical conditions. The numerical model includes interface elements to describe the mechanical behaviour of joints. The smeared-crack approach is employed to simulate cracking in intact rock.

The numerical model is validated against large-scale site experiments which are being carried out in cavern B at the Röda Sten Rock Laboratory (Göteborg, Sweden). In an exploratory experiment carried out in 1992, the temperature was lowered to −40°C using a cooling machine. In a subsequent experiment liquid nitrogen will be used to cool the same unlined cavern to −162°C. The paper describes the validation of the model against the exploratory experiment at −40°C. The calculated temperature and strain distribution in the rock mass compare well with the measurements. The results demonstrate an encouraging prospect in adequately simulating the relevant phenomena in jointed rock mass at low temperatures.

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