Controls on Transport of Nanostructures in Sedimentary Rocks

Steven L. Bryant, Keith P. Johnston (ChE)

Funding source: Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC)

Funding amount: $175K per year

This project seeks to establish the characteristics of nanoparticles that allow them to be transported arbitrarily far into a sedimentary rock containing two (or more) immiscible fluids. The goal is to support a primary objective of the AEC, namely, to develop sensors to illuminate hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Nanostructures that migrate with injected fluids into the formation might be able to play this role -- but only if they can propagate tens to hundreds of meters through carbonate and sandstone rocks that contain aqueous and hydrocarbon phases.

To accomplish this objective we propose a two-scale study: experiments on transport in mesoporous thin films (pores 10 to 1000 nm), and core scale experiments on transport through sandpacks and samples of sedimentary rocks (pores 1 to 10 microns). The former will elucidate fundamental mechanisms of particle attachment as a function of particle surface characteristics and pore geometry. The latter will include injection of single-phase suspensions of nanoparticles and injection of nanoparticles in two-phase emulsions, the particles being held at droplet interfaces or as a suspension within droplets. By varying the surface characteristics of the particles and of the porous materials, we will determine the controls on retention. The results will be useful in preparing specifications of desirable properties for particles and structures intended for use within a hydrocarbon reservoir.