Imperial College London

ProfessorMartinBlunt

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Chair in Flow in Porous Media
 
 
 
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Contact

 

+44 (0)20 7594 6500m.blunt Website

 
 
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Location

 

2.38ARoyal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus

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Summary

 

Publications

Publication Type
Year
to

512 results found

Amrouche F, Xu D, Short M, Iglauer S, Vinogradov J, Blunt MJet al., 2022, Experimental study of electrical heating to enhance oil production from oil-wet carbonate reservoirs, Fuel: the science and technology of fuel and energy, Vol: 324, Pages: 1-12, ISSN: 0016-2361

New approaches for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) with a reduced environmental footprint are required to improve recovery from mature oil fields, and when combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) can provide useful options for resource maximisation during the net zero transition. Electrical heating is investigated as a potential EOR method in carbonate reservoirs. Samples were placed in an apparatus surrounded by a wire coil across which different DC (direct current) voltages were applied. Monitoring the imbibition of both deionized water (DW) and seawater (SW) into initially oil-wet Austin chalk showed that water imbibed into the rock faster when heated in the presence of a magnetic field. This was associated with a reduction in the water–air contact angle over time measured on the external surface of the sample. Without heating, the contact angle reduced from 127° approaching water-wet conditions, 90°, in 52 min, while in the presence of heating with 3 V, 6 V, and 9 V applied across a sample 17 mm in length, the time required to reach the same contact angle was only 47, 38 and 26 min, respectively, while a further reduction in contact angle was witnessed with SW. The ultimate recovery factor (RF) for an initially oil-wet sample imbibed by DW was 13% while by seawater (SW) the recorded RF was 26% in the presence of an electrical heating compared with 2.8% for DW and 11% for SW without heating. We propose heating as an effective way to improve oil recovery, enhancing capillary-driven natural water influx, and observe that renewable-powered heating for EOR with CCS may be one option to improve recovery from mature oil fields with low environmental footprint.

Journal article

Imani G, Zhang L, Blunt MJ, Xu C, Guo Y, Sun H, Yao Jet al., 2022, Quantitative determination of the threshold pressure for a discontinuous phase to pass through a constriction using microscale simulation, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MULTIPHASE FLOW, Vol: 153, ISSN: 0301-9322

Journal article

Spurin C, Rucker M, Moura M, Bultreys T, Garfi G, Berg S, Blunt MJ, Krevor Set al., 2022, Red Noise in Steady-State Multiphase Flow in Porous Media, WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, Vol: 58, ISSN: 0043-1397

Journal article

Selem AM, Agenet N, Blunt MJ, Bijeljic Bet al., 2022, Pore-scale processes in tertiary low salinity waterflooding in a carbonate rock: Micro-dispersions, water film growth, and wettability change., J Colloid Interface Sci, Vol: 628, Pages: 486-498

HYPOTHESIS: The wettability change from oil-wet towards more water-wet conditions by injecting diluted brine can improve oil recovery from reservoir rocks, known as low salinity waterflooding. We investigated the underlying pore-scale mechanisms of this process to determine if improved recovery was associated with a change in local contact angle, and if additional displacement was facilitated by the formation of micro-dispersions of water in oil and water film swelling. EXPERIMENTS: X-ray imaging and high-pressure and temperature flow apparatus were used to investigate and compare high and low salinity waterflooding in a carbonate rock sample. The sample was placed in contact with crude oil to obtain an initial wetting state found in hydrocarbon reservoirs. High salinity brine was then injected at increasing flow rates followed by low salinity brine injection using the same procedure. FINDINGS: Development of water micro-droplets within the oil phase and detachment of oil layers from the rock surface were observed after low salinity waterflooding. During high salinity waterflooding, contact angles showed insignificant changes from the initial value of 115°, while the mean curvature and local capillary pressure values remained negative, consistent with oil-wet conditions. However, with low salinity, the decrease in contact angle to 102° and the shift in the mean curvature and capillary pressure to positive values indicate a wettability change. Overall, our analysis captured the in situ mechanisms and processes associated with the low salinity effect and ultimate increase in oil recovery.

Journal article

Raeini AQ, Giudici LM, Blunt MJ, Bijeljic Bet al., 2022, Generalized network modelling of two-phase flow in a water-wet and mixed-wet reservoir sandstone: Uncertainty and validation with experimental data, Advances in Water Resources, Vol: 164, Pages: 1-14, ISSN: 0309-1708

We use a generalized pore network model in combination with image-based experiments to understand the parameters that control upscaled flow properties. The study is focued on water-flooding through a reservoir sandstone under water-wet and mixed-wet conditions. A set of sensitivity studies is presented to quantify the role of wettability, pore geometry, initial and boundary conditions as well as a selection of model parameters used in the computation of fluid volumes, curvatures and flow and electrical conductivities. We quantify the uncertainty in the model predictions, which match the measured relative permeability and capillary pressure within the uncertainty of the experiments. Our results show that contact angle, initial saturation, image quality and image processing algorithm are amongst the parameters which introduce the largest variance in the predictions of upscaled flow properties for both mixed-wet and water-wet conditions.

Journal article

Ramezanpour M, Siavashi M, Raeini AQ, Blunt MJet al., 2022, Pore-scale simulation of nanoparticle transport and deposition in a microchannel using a Lagrangian approach, JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR LIQUIDS, Vol: 355, ISSN: 0167-7322

Journal article

Zhang Y, Lin Q, Raeini AQ, Onaka Y, Iwama H, Takabayashi K, Blunt MJ, Bijeljic Bet al., 2022, Pore-scale imaging of asphaltene deposition with permeability reduction and wettability alteration, Fuel, Vol: 316, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 0016-2361

To better understand asphaltene deposition mechanisms and their influence on rock permeability and wettability, we have developed an in situ micro-CT imaging capability to observe asphaltene precipitation during multiphase flow at high resolution in three dimensions. Pure heptane and crude oil were simultaneously injected to induce asphaltene precipitation in the pore space of a sandstone rock sample. The heptane permeability across the sample was nine times lower after the first asphaltene precipitation, while it was reduced by a factor of ninety due to asphaltene migration and growth after subsequent brine injection. Furthermore, through quantifying the curvatures and contact angles on the images before and after asphaltene precipitation, we observed that the wettability of the porous medium changed from water-wet to mixed-wet. Overall, we demonstrate a micro-CT imaging and analysis workflow to quantify asphaltene deposition, permeability reduction and wettability change which can be used for reservoir characterisation and remediation.

Journal article

Shojaei MJ, Bijeljic B, Zhang Y, Blunt MJet al., 2022, Minimal surfaces in porous materials: x-ray image-based measurement of the contact angle and curvature in gas diffusion layers to design optimal performance of fuel cells, ACS Applied Energy Materials, Vol: 5, Pages: 4613-4621, ISSN: 2574-0962

We inject water at a low flow rate through gas diffusion layers containing different percentages of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating: 5, 20, 40, and 60%. We use high-resolution three-dimensional X-ray imaging to identify the arrangement of fibers, water, and air in the pore space. We also quantify the contact angle and meniscus curvature once the water has spanned the layer, flow has ceased, and water has reached a position of equilibrium. The average contact angle and water pressure at breakthrough increase with the amount of coating, although we see a wide range of contact angles with values both above and below 90°, indicating a mixed-wet state. We identify that the menisci form minimal surfaces (interfaces of zero curvature) consistent with pinned gas-water-solid contacts. Scanning electron microscopy images of the fibers show that the coated fibers have a rough surface. Between 93 and 100% of the contacts identified were found on the rough, hydrophobic, coated fibers or at the boundary between uncoated (hydrophilic) and coated (hydrophobic) regions; we hypothesize that these contacts are pinned. The one exception is the 60% PTFE layer, which shows distinctly hydrophobic properties and a negative capillary pressure (the water pressure is higher than that of air). The presence of minimal surfaces suggests that the water and gas pressures are equal, allowing water to flow readily without pressure build-up. From topological principles, the negative Gaussian curvature of the menisci implies that the fluid phases are well connected. The implication of these results is explored for the design of porous materials where the simultaneous flow of two phases occurs over a wide saturation range.

Journal article

Qu M-L, Lu S-Y, Lin Q, Foroughi S, Yu Z-T, Blunt MJet al., 2022, Characterization of Water Transport in Porous Building Materials Based on an Analytical Spontaneous Imbibition Model, TRANSPORT IN POROUS MEDIA, Vol: 143, Pages: 417-432, ISSN: 0169-3913

Journal article

Blunt M, 2022, Acknowledgement of Reviewers for 2021, TRANSPORT IN POROUS MEDIA, Vol: 142, Pages: 407-410, ISSN: 0169-3913

Journal article

Singh K, Bultreys T, Raeini AQ, Shams M, Blunt MJet al., 2022, New type of pore-snap-off and displacement correlations in imbibition, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Vol: 609, Pages: 384-392, ISSN: 0021-9797

HYPOTHESIS: Imbibition of a fluid into a porous material involves the invasion of a wetting fluid in the pore space through piston-like displacement, film and corner flow, snap-off and pore bypassing. These processes have been studied extensively in two-dimensional (2D) porous systems; however, their relevance to three-dimensional (3D) natural porous media is poorly understood. Here, we investigate these pore-scale processes in a natural rock sample using time-resolved 3D (i.e., four-dimensional or 4D) X-ray imaging. EXPERIMENTS: We performed a capillary-controlled drainage-imbibition experiment on an initially brine-saturated carbonate rock sample. The sample was imaged continuously during imbibition using 4D X-ray imaging to visualize and analyze fluid displacement and snap-off processes at the pore-scale. FINDINGS: We discover a new type of snap-off that occurs in pores, resulting in the entrapment of a small portion of the non-wetting phase in pore corners. This contrasts with previously-observed snap-off in throats which traps the non-wetting phase in pore centers. We relate the new type of pore-snap-off to the pinning of fluid-fluid interfaces at rough surfaces, creating contact angles close to 90°. Subsequently, we provide correlations for displacement events as a function of pore-throat geometry. Our findings indicate that having a small throat does not necessarily favor snap-off: the key criterion is the throat radius in relation to the pore radius involved in a displacement event, captured by the aspect ratio.

Journal article

Zhang Y, Bijeljic B, Blunt MJ, 2022, Nonlinear multiphase flow in hydrophobic porous media, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Vol: 934, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 0022-1120

Multiphase flow in porous materials is conventionally described by an empirical extension to Darcy's law, which assumes that the pressure gradient is proportional to the flow rate. Through a series of two-phase flow experiments, we demonstrate that even when capillary forces are dominant at the pore scale, there is a nonlinear intermittent flow regime with a power-law dependence between pressure gradient and flow rate. Energy balance is used to predict accurately the start of the intermittent regime in hydrophobic porous media. The pore-scale explanation of the behaviour based on the periodic filling of critical flow pathways is confirmed through 3D micron-resolution X-ray imaging.

Journal article

Mukherjee S, Johns RT, Foroughi S, Blunt MJet al., 2022, Fluid - Fluid Interfacial Area and Its Impact on Relative Permeability - A Pore Network Modeling Study

Relative permeability (kr) is commonly modeled as an empirical function of phase saturation. Although current empirical models can provide a good match of one or two measured relative permeabilities using saturation alone, they are unable to predict relative permeabilities well when there is hysteresis or when physical properties such as wettability change. Further, current models often result in relative permeability discontinuities that can cause convergence and accuracy problems in simulation. To overcome these problems, recent research has modeled relative permeability as a state function of both saturation (S) and phase connectivity (X). Pore network modeling (PNM) data, however, shows small differences in relative permeability for the same S-X value when approached from a different flow direction. This paper examines the impact of one additional Minkowski parameter (Mecke and Arns, 2005), the fluid-fluid interfacial area, on relative permeability to identify if that satisfactorily explains this discrepancy. We calculate the total fluid-fluid interfacial areas (IA) during two-phase (oil/water) flow in porous media using pore network modeling. The area is calculated from PNM simulations using the areas associated with corners and throats in pore elements of different shapes. The pore network is modeled after a Bentheimer sandstone, using square, triangular, and circular pore shapes. Simulations were conducted for numerous primary drainage and imbibition cycles at a constant contact angle of 0° for the wetting phase. Simultaneous measurements of capillary pressure, relative permeability, saturation, and phase connectivity are made for each displacement. Fluid-fluid interfacial area is calculated from the PNM capillary pressure, the fluid location in the pore elements, and the pore element dimensional data. The results show that differences in the relative permeability at the same (S,X) point is explained well by differences in the fluid-fluid interfacial area

Conference paper

Ladipo L, Blunt MJ, King PR, 2022, Crossflow effects on low salinity displacement in stratified heterogeneity, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, Vol: 208, Pages: 1-26, ISSN: 0920-4105

Crossflow is a major factor affecting recovery efficiency in heterogeneous permeable media. In typical water-oil displacements, viscous-dominated crossflow improves oil recovery efficiency relative to no-crossflow depending on the shock-front and/or the mobility ratio across the displacement front. Its impact is not yet fully understood for augmented or engineered waterfloods such as controlled/low salinity waterflooding (LSWF). This is critical in such a flood with two distinct displacement shock-fronts – unlike a standard waterflood – that are potentially influenced by mixing of the brines which further complicates the crossflow behaviour. This paper presents a comprehensive treatment of crossflow effects on recovery or displacement efficiency along stratified media of contrasting properties during LSWF considering physical dispersion.We define dimensionless numbers to characterize no-crossflow, viscous- and gravity-dominated crossflow regimes for different mobility-ratios. In two-dimensional numerical simulations, we explore the influence of property contrasts and mobility-ratios across the two distinct shock-fronts on the viscous crossflow behaviour in a LSWF. The sensitivity of viscous crossflow recovery and (low-salinity) engineered-water sweep efficiency to mobility-ratios is evaluated at different performance times relative to no-crossflow displacement.Viscous crossflow (VC) is found to be relevant in water-oil displacements for permeability contrasts less than or equal to 1000, but less important for EOR low-salinity displacement once the permeability contrast exceeds 50. For the mobility-ratio cases considered, VC is unidirectional – from the fast to slow layer – only when the mobility-ratios across the two distinct shock-fronts are both favourable. Unlike a typical water-oil displacement, the weak dependency of late-time recovery efficiency on VC is observed to be a function of the mobility-ratio and dispersion in LSWF. An unfavour

Journal article

Alhosani A, Selem AM, Lin Q, Bijeljic B, Blunt MJet al., 2021, Disconnected gas transport in steady‐state three‐phase flow, Water Resources Research, Vol: 57, Pages: 1-26, ISSN: 0043-1397

We use high-resolution three-dimensional X-ray microtomography to investigate fluid displacement during steady-state three-phase flow in a cm-sized water-wet sandstone rock sample. The pressure differential across the sample is measured which enables the determination of relative permeability; capillary pressure is also estimated from the interfacial curvature. Though the measured relative permeabilities are consistent, to within experimental uncertainty, with values obtained without imaging on larger samples, we discover a unique flow dynamics. The most non-wetting phase (gas) is disconnected across the system: gas flows by periodically opening critical flow pathways in intermediate-sized pores. While this phenomenon has been observed in two-phase flow, here it is significant at low flow rates, where capillary forces dominate at the pore-scale. Gas movement proceeds in a series of double and multiple displacement events. Implications for the design of three-phase flow processes and current empirical models are discussed: the traditional conceptualization of three-phase dynamics based on analogies to two-phase flow vastly over-estimates the connectivity and flow potential of the gas phase.

Journal article

Shams R, Masihi M, Boozarjomehry RB, Blunt MJet al., 2021, A hybrid of statistical and conditional generative adversarial neural network approaches for reconstruction of 3D porous media (ST-CGAN), ADVANCES IN WATER RESOURCES, Vol: 158, ISSN: 0309-1708

Journal article

Karvounis P, Blunt MJ, 2021, Assessment of CO2 geological storage capacity of saline aquifers under the North Sea, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GREENHOUSE GAS CONTROL, Vol: 111, ISSN: 1750-5836

Journal article

Yang Y, Zhou Y, Blunt MJ, Yao J, Cai Jet al., 2021, Advances in multiscale numerical and experimental approaches for multiphysics problems in porous media, Advances in Geo-Energy Research, Vol: 5, Pages: 233-238, ISSN: 2207-9963

Research on the scientific and engineering problems of porous media has drawn increasing attention in recent years. Digital core analysis technology has been rapidly developed in many fields, such as hydrocarbon exploration and development, hydrology, medicine, materials and subsurface geofluids. In summary, science and engineering research in porous media is a complex problem involving multiple fields. In order to encourage communication and collaboration in porous media research using digital core technology in different industries, the 5th International Conference on Digital Core Analysis & the Workshop on Multiscale Numerical and Experimental Approaches for Multiphysics Problems in Porous Media was held in Qingdao from April 18 to 20, 2021. The workshop was jointly organized by the China InterPore Chapter, the Research Center of Multiphase Flow in Porous Media at the China University of Petroleum (East China) and the University of Aberdeen with financial support from the National Sciences Foundation of China and the British Council. Due to the current pandemic, a hybrid meeting was held (participants in China met in Qingdao, while other participants joined the meeting online), attracting more than 150 participants from around the world, and the latest multi-scale simulation and experimental methods to study multi-field coupling problems in complex porous media were presented.

Journal article

Lin Q, Bijeljic B, Raeini AQ, Rieke H, Blunt MJet al., 2021, Drainage capillary pressure distribution and fluid displacement in a heterogeneous laminated sandstone, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol: 48, Pages: 1-11, ISSN: 0094-8276

We applied three-dimensional X-ray microtomography to image a capillary drainage process (0–1,000 kPa) in a cm-scale heterogeneous laminated sandstone containing three distinct regions with different pore sizes to study the capillary pressure. We used differential imaging to distinguish solid, macropore, and five levels of subresolution pore phases associated with each region. The brine saturation distribution was computed based on average CT values. The nonwetting phase displaced the wetting phase in order of pore size and connectivity. The drainage capillary pressure in the highly heterogeneous rock was dependent on the capillary pressures in the individual regions as well as distance to the boundary between regions. The complex capillary pressure distribution has important implications for accurate water saturation estimation, gas and/or oil migration and the capillary rise of water in heterogeneous aquifers.

Journal article

Mularczyk A, Lin Q, Niblett D, Vasile A, Blunt MJ, Niasar V, Marone F, Schmidt TJ, Büchi FN, Eller Jet al., 2021, Operando liquid pressure determination in polymer electrolyte fuel cells., ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, Vol: 13, Pages: 34003-34011, ISSN: 1944-8244

Extending the operating range of fuel cells to higher current densities is limited by the ability of the cell to remove the water produced by the electrochemical reaction, avoiding flooding of the gas diffusion layers. It is therefore of great interest to understand the complex and dynamic mechanisms of water cluster formation in an operando fuel cell setting as this can elucidate necessary changes to the gas diffusion layer properties with the goal of minimizing the number, size, and instability of the water clusters formed. In this study, we investigate the cluster formation process using X-ray tomographic microscopy at 1 Hz frequency combined with interfacial curvature analysis and volume-of-fluid simulations to assess the pressure evolution in the water phase. This made it possible to observe the increase in capillary pressure when the advancing water front had to overcome a throat between two neighboring pores and the nuanced interactions of volume and pressure evolution during the droplet formation and its feeding path instability. A 2 kPa higher breakthrough pressure compared to static ex situ capillary pressure versus saturation evaluations was observed, which suggests a rethinking of the dynamic liquid water invasion process in polymer electrolyte fuel cell gas diffusion layers.

Journal article

Selem AM, Agenet N, Gao Y, Raeini AQ, Blunt MJ, Bijeljic Bet al., 2021, Pore-scale imaging and analysis of low salinity waterflooding in a heterogeneous carbonate rock at reservoir conditions, Scientific Reports, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-14, ISSN: 2045-2322

X-ray micro-tomography combined with a high-pressure high-temperature flow apparatus and advanced image analysis techniques were used to image and study fluid distribution, wetting states and oil recovery during low salinity waterflooding (LSW) in a complex carbonate rock at subsurface conditions. The sample, aged with crude oil, was flooded with low salinity brine with a series of increasing flow rates, eventually recovering 85% of the oil initially in place in the resolved porosity. The pore and throat occupancy analysis revealed a change in fluid distribution in the pore space for different injection rates. Low salinity brine initially invaded large pores, consistent with displacement in an oil-wet rock. However, as more brine was injected, a redistribution of fluids was observed; smaller pores and throats were invaded by brine and the displaced oil moved into larger pore elements. Furthermore, in situ contact angles and curvatures of oil–brine interfaces were measured to characterize wettability changes within the pore space and calculate capillary pressure. Contact angles, mean curvatures and capillary pressures all showed a shift from weakly oil-wet towards a mixed-wet state as more pore volumes of low salinity brine were injected into the sample. Overall, this study establishes a methodology to characterize and quantify wettability changes at the pore scale which appears to be the dominant mechanism for oil recovery by LSW.

Journal article

Shams M, Singh K, Bijeljic B, Blunt MJet al., 2021, Direct numerical simulation of pore-scale trapping events during capillary-dominated two-phase flow in porous media, Transport in Porous Media, Vol: 138, Pages: 443-458, ISSN: 0169-3913

This study focuses on direct numerical simulation of imbibition, displacement of the non-wetting phase by the wetting phase, through water-wet carbonate rocks. We simulate multiphase flow in a limestone and compare our results with high-resolution synchrotron X-ray images of displacement previously published in the literature by Singh et al. (Sci Rep 7:5192, 2017). We use the results to interpret the observed displacement events that cannot be described using conventional metrics such as pore-to-throat aspect ratio. We show that the complex geometry of porous media can dictate a curvature balance that prevents snap-off from happening in spite of favourable large aspect ratios. We also show that pinned fluid-fluid-solid contact lines can lead to snap-off of small ganglia on pore walls; we propose that this pinning is caused by sub-resolution roughness on scales of less than a micron. Our numerical results show that even in water-wet porous media, we need to allow pinned contacts in place to reproduce experimental results.

Journal article

Lin Q, Bijeljic B, Foroughi S, Berg S, Blunt MJet al., 2021, Pore-scale imaging of displacement patterns in an altered-wettability carbonate, Chemical Engineering Science, Vol: 235, Pages: 1-12, ISSN: 0009-2509

High-resolution X-ray imaging combined with a steady-state flow experiment is used to demonstrate how pore-scale displacement affects macroscopic properties in an altered-wettability microporous carbonate, where porosity and fluid saturation can be directly obtained from the grey-scale micro-CT images. The resolvable macro pores are largely oil-wet with an average thermodynamic contact angle of 120°. The pore-by-pore analysis shows locally either oil or brine almost fully occupied the macro pores, with some oil displacement in the micro-porosity. We observed a typical oil-wet behaviour consistent with the contact angle measurement. The brine tended to occupy the larger macro pores, leading to a higher brine relative permeability, lower residual oil saturation, than under water-wet conditions and in a mixed-wet sandstone. The capillary pressure was negative and seven times larger in the carbonate than the sandstone, despite having a similar average pore size. These different displacement patterns are principally determined by the difference in wettability.

Journal article

Foroughi S, Bijeljic B, Blunt MJ, 2021, Pore-by-pore modelling, validation and prediction of waterflooding in oil-wet rocks using dynamic synchrotron data, Transport in Porous Media, Vol: 138, Pages: 285-308, ISSN: 0169-3913

We predict waterflood displacement on a pore-by-pore basis using pore network modelling. The pore structure is captured by a high-resolution image. We then use an energy balance applied to images of the displacement to assign an average contact angle, and then modify the local pore-scale contact angles in the model about this mean to match the observed displacement sequence. Two waterflooding experiments on oil-wet rocks are analysed where the displacement sequence was imaged using time-resolved synchrotron imaging. In both cases the capillary pressure in the model matches the experimentally obtained values derived from the measured interfacial curvature. We then predict relative permeability for the full saturation range. Using the optimised contact angles distributed randomly in space has little effect on the predicted capillary pressures and relative permeabilities, indicating that spatial correlation in wettability is not significant in these oil-wet samples. The calibrated model can be used to predict properties outside the range of conditions considered in the experiment.

Journal article

Alhosani A, Bijeljic B, Blunt MJ, 2021, Pore-scale imaging and analysis of wettability order, trapping and displacement in three-phase flow in porous media with various wettabilities, Transport in Porous Media, Vol: 140, Pages: 59-84, ISSN: 0169-3913

Three-phase flow in porous media is encountered in many applications including subsurface carbon dioxide storage, enhanced oil recovery, groundwater remediation and the design of microfluidic devices. However, the pore-scale physics that controls three-phase flow under capillary dominated conditions is still not fully understood. Recent advances in three-dimensional pore-scale imaging have provided new insights into three-phase flow. Based on these findings, this paper describes the key pore-scale processes that control flow and trapping in a three-phase system, namely wettability order, spreading and wetting layers, and double/multiple displacement events. We show that in a porous medium containing water, oil and gas, the behaviour is controlled by wettability, which can either be water-wet, weakly oil-wet or strongly oil-wet, and by gas–oil miscibility. We provide evidence that, for the same wettability state, the three-phase pore-scale events are different under near-miscible conditions—where the gas–oil interfacial tension is ≤ 1 mN/m—compared to immiscible conditions. In a water-wet system, at immiscible conditions, water is the most-wetting phase residing in the corners of the pore space, gas is the most non-wetting phase occupying the centres, while oil is the intermediate-wet phase spreading in layers sandwiched between water and gas. This fluid configuration allows for double capillary trapping, which can result in more gas trapping than for two-phase flow. At near-miscible conditions, oil and gas appear to become neutrally wetting to each other, preventing oil from spreading in layers; instead, gas and oil compete to occupy the centre of the larger pores, while water remains connected in wetting layers in the corners. This allows for the rapid production of oil since it is no longer confined to movement in thin layers. In a weakly oil-wet system, at immiscible conditions, the wettability order is oil–water–gas

Journal article

Hashemi L, Blunt M, Hajibeygi H, 2021, Pore-scale modelling and sensitivity analyses of hydrogen-brine multiphase flow in geological porous media, Scientific Reports, Vol: 11, ISSN: 2045-2322

Underground hydrogen storage (UHS) in initially brine-saturated deep porous rocks is a promising large-scale energy storage technology, due to hydrogen’s high specific energy capacity and the high volumetric capacity of aquifers. Appropriate selection of a feasible and safe storage site vitally depends on understanding hydrogen transport characteristics in the subsurface. Unfortunately there exist no robust experimental analyses in the literature to properly characterise this complex process. As such, in this work, we present a systematic pore-scale modelling study to quantify the crucial reservoir-scale functions of relative permeability and capillary pressure and their dependencies on fluid and reservoir rock conditions. To conduct a conclusive study, in the absence of sufficient experimental data, a rigorous sensitivity analysis has been performed to quantify the impacts of uncertain fluid and rock properties on these upscaled functions. The parameters are varied around a base-case, which is obtained through matching to the existing experimental study. Moreover, cyclic hysteretic multiphase flow is also studied, which is a relevant aspect for cyclic hydrogen-brine energy storage projects. The present study applies pore-scale analysis to predict the flow of hydrogen in storage formations, and to quantify the sensitivity to the micro-scale characteristics of contact angle (i.e., wettability) and porous rock structure.

Journal article

Karlsson O, Rocklöv J, Lehoux AP, Bergquist J, Rutgersson A, Blunt MJ, Birnbaum LSet al., 2021, The human exposome and health in the Anthropocene, International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol: 50, Pages: 378-389, ISSN: 0300-5771

Journal article

Spurin C, Bultreys T, Rücker M, Garfi G, Schlepütz CM, Novak V, Berg S, Blunt MJ, Krevor Set al., 2021, The development of intermittent multiphase fluid flow pathways through a porous rock, Advances in Water Resources, Vol: 150, Pages: 1-7, ISSN: 0309-1708

storage and natural gas production. However, due to experimental limitations, it has not been possible to identify why intermittency occurs at subsurface conditions and what the implications are for upscaled flow properties such as relative permeability. We address these questions with observations of nitrogen and brine flowing at steady-state through a carbonate rock. We overcome previous imaging limitations with high-speed (1s resolution), synchrotron-based X-ray micro-computed tomography combined with pressure measurements recorded while controlling fluid flux. We observe that intermittent fluid transport allows the non-wetting phase to flow through a more ramified network of pores, which would not be possible with connected pathway flow alone for the same flow rate. The volume of fluid intermittently fluctuating increases with capillary number, with the corresponding expansion of the flow network minimising the role of inertial forces in controlling flow even as the flow rate increases. Intermittent pathway flow sits energetically between laminar and turbulent through connected pathways. While a more ramified flow network favours lowered relative permeability, intermittency is more dissipative than laminar flow through connected pathways, and the relative permeability remains unchanged for low capillary numbers where the pore geometry controls the location of intermittency. However, as the capillary number increases further, the role of pore structure in controlling intermittency decreases which corresponds to an increase in relative permeability. These observations can serve as the basis of a model for the causal links between intermittent fluid flow, fluid distribution throughout the pore space, and the upscaled manifestation in relative permeability.

Journal article

Zhang Y, Bijeljic B, Gao Y, Lin Q, Blunt MJet al., 2021, Quantification of non‐linear multiphase flow in porous media, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol: 48, Pages: 1-7, ISSN: 0094-8276

We measure the pressure difference during two‐phase flow across a sandstone sample for a range of injection rates and fractional flows of water, the wetting phase, during an imbibition experiment. We quantify the onset of a transition from a linear relationship between flow rate and pressure gradient to a nonlinear power‐law dependence. We show that the transition from linear (Darcy) to nonlinear flow and the exponent in the power‐law is a function of fractional flow. We use energy balance to accurately predict the onset of intermittency for a range of fractional flows, fluid viscosities, and different rock types.

Journal article

Blunt MJ, 2021, Acknowledgement of Reviewers for 2020, Transport in Porous Media, Vol: 137, Pages: 283-286, ISSN: 0169-3913

Journal article

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