Permeability evolution of fractured limestone due to reactive flow: Observation and prediction of wormhole formation

Friday, 19 December 2014
Hang Deng1, Jeffrey P Fitts1, Dustin Crandall2, Dustin McIntyre2 and Catherine A Peters1, (1)Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States, (2)National Energy Technology Laboratory Morgantown, Morgantown, WV, United States
Fractures in porous media provide preferential pathways for flow and solute transport. Their hydraulic properties are critical parameters for determining fluid migration and leakage, and are subject to alterations when exposed to reactive flow, e.g. CO2-acidfied brine in the case of carbon storage. Our previous studies have shown how mineral heterogeneity could lead to increased roughness that mitigates the increase in fracture permeability. This study shows that, even in rocks with mineral homogeneity, fracture geometry is subject to complex alterations. In this presentation, we report an experimental study of CO2-acidified brine in fractured Indiana Limestone, with comprehensive characterization of effluent chemistry analyzed by ICP-OES, and 3D geometry evolution using micro-computed topography (xCT). Significant carbonate dissolution was observed but the reaction extent revealed by the effluent chemistry was less than what was predicted by simple reaction transport models. xCT imaging revealed the formation of wormhole channels in the fracture, and the channels grew larger downstream and more prominent over time. Using the fracture geometries derived from the xCT images, we simulated the flow field and inferred the evolution of fracture hydraulic properties. To interpret the process of wormholing and its impacts on fracture hydraulic properties, we used reactive transport modeling to simulate the interplay between fracture geometry, fluid flow and geochemical reactions. Our simulations predicted that wormholes were formed in fractures with initial roughness representative of natural subsurface systems. The presence of wormholes caused a disproportionately larger permeability increase than would be expected given the extent of volume change.