Evolving Spatial Heterogeneity Induced by Preferential Carbonate Dissolution in Fractured Media

Friday, 19 December 2014
Hang Wen1, Li Li1, Dustin Crandall2 and Alexandra Hakala2, (1)Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, University Park, PA, United States, (2)National Energy Technology Laboratory Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Spatial heterogeneity plays a key role in determining physical and geochemical processes in geological systems. In reactive fractures, mineral reactions also can alter fracture properties locally, therefore leading to evolving spatial heterogeneity. Here we use two-dimensional (2D) reactive transport modeling to 1) understand the evolving spatial heterogeneity due to the preferential dissolution of carbonate and 2) quantify the dependence of calcite dissolution on characteristics of spatial heterogeneity, including fracture roughness (i.e., aperture standard derivation, surface parameter and fractal dimension), flow connectivity (i.e., ratio of effective permeability keff over geometric mean of local permeability kG), and transport connectivity indicators (e.g., ratio of late 5% arrival time tlate5% over average arrival time tave). The fractured core samples from Brady’s Hot Springs geothermal field are composed of primarily carbonate, clay, and quartz. The computational domains were set up using fracture images obtained from CT scanning at the resolution of 31.6 μm. The two samples have similar initial average aperture, porosity, permeability, and mineralogical composition. They differ in the spatial patterns: one has narrow large-aperture zones distributed widely (AD sample); the other has a major large-aperture zone in the middle of the sample (AC sample).

Simulation results show that highly connected flow path forms quickly in the AD sample, leading to an increase of average chemical aperture, effective permeability, and flow velocity by five times after 75 days of injecting salt water. In contrast, these properties remain constant in the AC sample. Other parameters that quantitatively characterize the spatial heterogeneity, including connectivity and the tail slope of the breakthrough curves, also change dramatically, indicating major alteration in fracture properties due to calcite dissolution.