The injection of CO2 into porous subsurface reservoirs is a technological means for removing anthropogenic emissions, which relies on a series of complex porous flow properties. During injection of CO2 small-scale heterogeneities, often in the form of sedimentary layering, can play a significant role in focusing the flow of less viscous CO2 into high permeability pathways, with large-scale implications for the overall motion of the CO2 plume. In these settings, capillary forces between the CO2 and water preferentially rearrange CO2 into the most permeable layers (with larger pore space), and may accelerate plume migration by as much as 200%. Numerous factors affect overall plume acceleration, including the structure of the layering, the permeability contrast between layers, and the playoff between the capillary, gravitational and viscous forces that act upon the flow. However, despite the sensitivity of the flow to these heterogeneities, it is difficult to acquire detailed field measurements of the heterogeneities owing to the vast range of scales involved, presenting an outstanding challenge. As a first step towards tackling this uncertainty, we use a simple modelling approach, based on an upscaled thin-film equation, to create ensemble forecasts for many different types and arrangements of sedimentary layers. In this way, a suite of predictions can be made to elucidate the most likely scenarios for injection and the uncertainty associated with such predictions.
- Mathematical Geoscience Seminar