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Experimental Study of Crossover from Capillary to Viscous Fingering for Supercritical CO2–Water Displacement in a Homogeneous Pore Network

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journal contribution
posted on 02.01.2013 by Ying Wang, Changyong Zhang, Ning Wei, Mart Oostrom, Thomas W. Wietsma, Xiaochun Li, Alain Bonneville
Carbon sequestration in saline aquifers involves displacing brine from the pore space by supercritical CO2 (scCO2). The displacement process is considered unstable due to the unfavorable viscosity ratio between the invading scCO2 and the resident brine. The mechanisms that affect scCO2–water displacement under reservoir conditions (41 °C, 9 MPa) were investigated in a homogeneous micromodel. A large range of injection rates, expressed as the dimensionless capillary number (Ca), was studied in two sets of experiments: discontinuous-rate injection, where the micromodel was saturated with water before each injection rate was imposed, and continuous-rate injection, where the rate was increased after quasi-steady conditions were reached for a certain rate. For the discontinuous-rate experiments, capillary fingering and viscous fingering are the dominant mechanisms for low (logCa ≤ −6.61) and high injection rates (logCa ≥ −5.21), respectively. Crossover from capillary to viscous fingering was observed for logCa = −5.91 to −5.21, resulting in a large decrease in scCO2 saturation. The discontinuous-rate experimental results confirmed the decrease in nonwetting fluid saturation during crossover from capillary to viscous fingering predicted by numerical simulations by Lenormand et al. (J. Fluid Mech. 1988, 189, 165–187). Capillary fingering was the dominant mechanism for all injection rates in the continuous-rate experiment, resulting in monotonic increase in scCO2 saturation.