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Capillary trapping of a nonwetting fluid phase in the subsurface has been considered as an important mechanism for geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO(2)). This mechanism can potentially relax stringent requirements for the integrity of cap rocks for CO(2) storage and therefore can significantly enhance storage capacity and security. We here apply ganglion dynamics to understand the capillary trapping of supercritical CO(2) (scCO(2)) under relevant reservoir conditions. We show that, by breaking the injected scCO(2) into small disconnected ganglia, the efficiency of capillary trapping can be greatly enhanced, because the mobility of a ganglion is inversely dependent on its size. Supercritical CO(2) ganglia can be engineered by promoting CO(2)-water interface instability during immiscible displacement, and their size distribution can be controlled by injection mode (e.g., water-alternating-gas) and rate. We also show that a large mobile ganglion can potentially break into smaller ganglia due to CO(2)-brine interface instability during buoyant rise, thus becoming less mobile. The mobility of scCO(2) in the subsurface is therefore self-limited. Vertical structural heterogeneity within a reservoir can inhibit the buoyant rise of scCO(2) ganglia. The dynamics of scCO(2) ganglia described here provides a new perspective for the security and monitoring of subsurface CO(2) storage.


Yifeng Wang, Charles Bryan, Thomas Dewers, Jason E Heath, Carlos Jove-Colon. Ganglion dynamics and its implications to geologic carbon dioxide storage. Environmental science & technology. 2013 Jan 2;47(1):219-26

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PMID: 22844874

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