Overview

Our research aims to improve understanding of the physical/chemical/biological mechanisms that control fluid flow through porous and fractured media. We combine quantitative laboratory experimentation, which includes innovative approaches for imaging pore-scale to column-scale processes, with development of parallel, scalable computational models. Integrating experiments and computational simulations in this way allows us to develop well-tested mechanistic models of subsurface processes, providing a robust means for extrapolating laboratory-scale observations to field-scale systems of interest. Our fundamental research supports a range of problems involving subsurface fluid flow and transport processes, including:

  • Contaminated groundwater remediation
  • Subsurface CO2 sequestration
  • Nuclear waste isolation
  • Geothermal energy production

Current research areas

Reactive transport

Fluid-rock interactions lead to changes in transport properties in porous and fractured media that defy simple representation by continuum models. Mineral dissolution and precipitation can also alter the mechanical and geophysical properties of rocks and unconsolidated sediments. Our studies in idealized analog systems and real rock speciments (right) aim to develop a mechanistic understanding of the role of different parameters (flowrate, reaction kinetics, fluid composition, etc.) on reaction-induced alteration processes.

Multiphase flow

Flow of two or more immiscible fluid phases through porous and fractured media leads to a complex distribution of the fluid phases that depends on pore space geometry, fluid properties, and flow conditions. In addition, mass transfer between phases can cause redistribution of the fluid phases over potentially long time scales. Our studies combine imaging of multiphase flows with development of computational models to quantify the mechanisms controlling multiphase flows and develop approaches for representing these complex processes in large-scale continuum models.

Multicomponent flow

Solids suspended in fluids flowing through porous and fractured media can mobilize contaminants and alter permeability when they become immobilized. For high concentrations of suspended solids, particle-particle interactions cannot be neglected, resulting in significant changes to fluid rheology. We have developed imaging techniques for quantifying the motion of suspended solids to explore develop improved understanding of the mechanisms controlling the transport of solids in these flows.

Updated: August 28, 2014