Multiscale Simulation of Flow and Transport in Carbon Sequestration

Matt Balhoff

Carbon sequestration, a potential solution for mitigating climate change, is inherently a multiscale process because transport mechanisms range from the nanometer scale to the kilometer scale. In carbon sequestration, CO2 is captured from emission gases as an industrial byproduct and then injected into potential storage sites for long-time storage.

Carbon sequestration illustrationCO2 trapping is accomplished by four proposed mechanisms: structural trapping, capillary trapping, solubility trapping, and mineral trapping. A fundamental understanding of these mechanisms, along with the relevant spatial and temporal scales, is needed if the world decides to implement carbon sequestration in the near future.

Through CFSES, I have developed new upscaling techniques for single-phase pore-scale models, coupled pore-network models for multiphase flow, investigated pore-level reactive transport of precipitation caused by CO2 geochemistry, and developed a multiscale hybrid, near-well simulator that can be used to model CO2 injection.

UT-Austin was recently awarded one (of 46) of the very prestigious DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) to model and understand CO2 sequestration at multiple spatial scales. I was a co-PI on the original proposal, and my unique multiscale modeling approaches have been an integral part of the center. Through CFSES, I have discovered new upscaling techniques for single-phase pore-scale models, coupled pore-network models for multiphase flow, investigated pore-level reactive transport of precipitation caused by CO2 geochemistry, and developed a multiscale hybrid, near-well simulator that can be used to model CO2 injection. My results were highlighted at the recent mid-term DOE science review where I was selected as a key presenter. I have five publications as part of the center.

(Figure below) The three images on the left show schematic of steady state concentration fields for a typical pore at three different Peclet numbers. Inlet/outlet flow directions as well as inlet concentrations are annotated. The figure on the right is the streamline field obtained from flow equation.

steady state concentration fields for a typical pore at three different Peclet numbers

In the figure below, concentration fields of a dummy tracer (injected through one inlet) obtained from COMSOL simulations on one 2D pore (different boundary conditions) and three distinct 3D pores. Inlet and outlet throats are annotated for each.

simulations on one 2D pore (different boundary conditions) and three distinct 3D pores

Below is a schematic of steady state concentration fields for a typical pore at three different Peclet numbers. Inlet/outlet flow directions as well as inlet concentrations are annotated.

steady state concentration fields for a typical pore at three different Peclet numbers

Personnel:

Dr. Matt Balhoff (PI)
Ph. D. Student: Tie Sun
Ph. D. Student: Yashar Mehmani
MS Student: Robert Peterson
MS Student: Jaideep Bhagmane
Postdoc: Dr. Wen Deng

Research Funding:

DOE EFRC; Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security (CFSES) (~$800K of $15.5M), SRA, and start-up funds

Dates: Sept 1, 2009 – present

Publications:

  • Mehmani, Y., Balhoff, M.T., “Bridging from Pore to Continuum: A Hybrid Mortar Domain Decomposition Framework for Subsurface Flow and Transport,” Journal of Multiscale Modeling and Simulation, in press.
  • Mehmani, Y., Oostrom, M., Balhoff, M.T., “A Streamline Splitting Pore-Network Approach for Computationally Inexpensive and Accurate Simulation of Species Transport in Porous Media,” Water Resources Research, Volume 50, Issue 3pages 2488-2517, March 2014. doi: 10.1002/2013WR014984
  • Mehmani, Y., Sun, T., Balhoff, M.T., Eichhubl, P. and Bryant, S., “Multiblock Pore-Scale Modeling and Upscaling of Reactive Transport: Application to Carbon Sequestration,” Transport in Porous Media, Volume 95, Issue 2, pages 305-326, October 2012. doi: 10.1007/s11242-012-0044-7
  • Sun, T., Mehmani, Y. and Balhoff, M.T., “Hybrid Multiscale Modeling through Direct Substitution of Pore-Scale Models into Near-Well Reservoir Simulators,” Energy & Fuels, Volume 26, Issue 9, pages 5828−5836, September 2012. doi: 10.1021/ef301003b
  • Sun, T., Mehmani, Y., Bhagmane, J. and Balhoff, M.T., “Pore to continuum upscaling of permeability in heterogeneous porous media using mortars,” International Journal of Oil, Gas, and Coal Technology, Volume 5, Nos. 2/3, pages 249-266 (2012). doi: 10.1504/IJOGCT.2012.046323
  • Petersen, R.T., Balhoff, M.T.* and Bryant, S., “Coupling Multiphase Pore-Scale Models to Account for Boundary Conditions: Application to 2D Quasi-Static Pore Networks,” Journal of Multiscale Modeling, Volume 3, No. 3, pages 109-131, September 2011. doi: 10.1142/S1756973711000431