Microbially Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP) - A Technology for Managing Flow and Transport in Porous and Fractured Media
Abstract:Certain microorganisms e.g., Sporosarcina pasteurii contribute enzymes that catalyze reactions which in the presence of calcium, can create saturation conditions favorable for calcium carbonate precipitation (microbially-induced calcium carbonate precipitation (MICP)). MICP can be used for a number of engineering applications including securing geologic storage of CO2 or other fluids by sealing fractures, improving wellbore integrity, and stabilizing fractured and unstable porous media. MICP treatment has the advantage of the use of small microorganisms, ~2μm, suggesting applicability to treatment of small aperture fractures not accessible to traditional treatments, for example the use of fine cement. The promotion of MICP in the subsurface is a complex reactive transport problem coupling microbial, abiotic (geochemical), geomechanical and hydrodynamic processes.
In the laboratory, MICP has been demonstrated to cement together heavily fractured shale and reduce the permeability of fractures in shale and sandstone cores up to five orders of magnitude under both ambient and subsurface relevant pressure conditions (Figure 1). Most recently, a MICP fracture treatment field study was performed at a well at the Southern Company Gorgas Steam Generation Plant (Alabama) (Figure 1). The Fayetteville Sandstone at approximately 1120’ below ground surface was hydraulically fractured prior to MICP treatment. After 4 days of injection of 24 calcium pulses and 6 microbial inoculations, injectivity of brine into the formation was significantly reduced. The experiment also resulted in a reduction in pressure decay which is a measure of improved wellbore integrity. These promising results suggest the potential for MICP treatment to seal fractured pathways at the field scale to improve the long-term security of geologically-stored carbon dioxide or prevent leakage of shale gas or hydraulic fracturing fluids into functional overlying aquifers, reducing environmental impacts.