Fluids moving through natural materials like sandstone can dissolve or precipitate solids as they travel. The alteration and damage caused by this type of reactive flow are behind several urgent and seemingly disparate challenges, including in the subsurface storage of carbon and hydrogen, the formation of methane hydrates, and even in the weathering of historic buildings. However, the overarching difficulty is the same in each of these cases: upscaling predictions from the lab to the application scales.
This interdisciplinary project aims to improve understanding of the physics of reactive flows underlying hydrate formation in porous media. For example, liquid CO2 injected for long-term storage into deep reservoirs can generate hydrates as it mixes with groundwater, forming crustal fingers by the so-called “chemical garden” phenomena. This is a self-arresting process, which slows down any further mixing, by blocking up the pore space.
In this project you will use cutting-edge numerical and experimental methods to explore the interplay between fluid dynamics and hydrate formation. Your aim will be to develop a computationally-efficient pore-network model, which can scale up the physics of how alteration happens at the scale of micron-sized pores, in order to accurately predict effects that are only seen at scales of metres and above. You will also be responsible for training and experimentally validating this model by laboratory experiments conducted at the extreme conditions representative of reservoirs several km deep underground.
This degree will provide you with access to a broad spectrum of expertise and facilities, under the supervision of Dr. Holtzman (Coventry University), Prof. Goehring (Nottingham Trent University, NTU), and Dr. Rochelle (British Geological Survey, BGS, Nottingham). Within this collaborative project, partially funded by the BGS (NERC), part of this PhD will be embedded in Nottingham with the BGS/NTU, exploiting their world-class experimental facilities. You will develop experiments of hydrate formation during the pumping of CO2 into water-saturated porous media. The BGS Hydrates and Ices Laboratory will allow simulating natural, high-pressure conditions, whereas NTU’s advanced imaging facilities, including MRI and micro-computed tomography, will provide live images of the growing hydrates.