Real rock-microfluidic flow cell: A test bed for real-time in situ analysis of flow, transport, and reaction in a subsurface reactive transport environment

Citation:

R. Singh, Sivaguru, M., Fried, G. A., Fouke, B. W., Sanford, R. A., Carrera, M., and Werth, C. J., “Real rock-microfluidic flow cell: A test bed for real-time in situ analysis of flow, transport, and reaction in a subsurface reactive transport environment,” Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, vol. 204, pp. 28-39, 2017.

Abstract:

Physical, chemical, and biological interactions between groundwater and sedimentary rock directly control the fundamental subsurface properties such as porosity, permeability, and flow. This is true for a variety of subsurface scenarios, ranging from shallow groundwater aquifers to deeply buried hydrocarbon reservoirs. Microfluidic flow cells are now commonly being used to study these processes at the pore scale in simplified pore structures meant to mimic subsurface reservoirs. However, these micromodels are typically fabricated from glass, silicon, or polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), and are therefore incapable of replicating the geochemical reactivity and complex three-dimensional pore networks present in subsurface lithologies. To address these limitations, we developed a new microfluidic experimental test bed, herein called the Real Rock-Microfluidic Flow Cell (RR-MFC). A porous 500 μm-thick real rock sample of the Clair Group sandstone from a subsurface hydrocarbon reservoir of the North Sea was prepared and mounted inside a PDMS microfluidic channel, creating a dynamic flow-through experimental platform for real-time tracking of subsurface reactive transport. Transmitted and reflected microscopy, cathodoluminescence microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and confocal laser microscopy techniques were used to (1) determine the mineralogy, geochemistry, and pore networks within the sandstone inserted in the RR-MFC, (2) analyze non-reactive tracer breakthrough in two- and (depth-limited) three-dimensions, and (3) characterize multiphase flow. The RR-MFC is the first microfluidic experimental platform that allows direct visualization of flow and transport in the pore space of a real subsurface reservoir rock sample, and holds potential to advance our understandings of reactive transport and other subsurface processes relevant to pollutant transport and cleanup in groundwater, as well as energy recovery.

Notes:

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