Observations of buoyant plumes in countercurrent displacement



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Leakage of stored bulk phase CO₂ is of particular risk to sequestration in deep saline aquifers due to the fact that when injected into typical saline aquifers, the CO₂ rich gas phase has lesser density than the aqueous phase resulting in buoyancy driven flow of the fluids. As the CO₂ migrates upward, the security of its storage depends upon the trapping mechanisms that counteract the migration. While there are a variety of trapping mechanisms the mechanism serving as motivation for this research is local capillary trapping. Local capillary trapping occurs during buoyancy-driven migration of bulk phase CO₂ within a saline aquifer (Saadatpoor, 2009). When the rising CO₂ plume encounters a region where capillary entry pressure is locally larger than average, CO₂ accumulates beneath the region. While research is continued by means of numerical simulation, research at the bench scale is needed to validate the conclusions made from simulation work. Presented is the development of a bench scale experiment whose objective is to assess local capillary trapping. The initial step in accomplishing this objective is to understand the fluid dynamics of CO₂ and brine in a saline aquifer which is categorized as two phase immiscible buoyancy driven displacement. Parameters influencing this displacement include density, viscosity, wettability and heterogeneity. A bench scale environment created to be analogous to CO₂ and brine in a saline aquifer is created in a quasi-two dimensional experimental apparatus, which allows for observation of plume migration at ambient conditions. A fluid pair analogous to supercritical CO₂ and brine is developed to mimic the density and viscosity relationship found at pressure and temperature typical of storage aquifers. The influences of viscosity ratio, density differences, porous medium wettability and heterogeneity are observed in series of experimental sequences. Three different fluid pairs with different viscosity ratios and density differences are used to assess density and viscosity influences. Porous media of varying grain size and wettability are used to assess the influence of heterogeneity and wettability. Results are qualitatively consistent with theoretical results and those from previous works.