Modelling plume behavior through a heterogeneous sand pack using a commercial invasion percolation model

  • Luca Trevisan
  • Tissa H. Illangasekare
  • Timothy A. Meckel
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s40948-017-0055-5

Cite this article as:
Trevisan, L., Illangasekare, T.H. & Meckel, T.A. Geomech. Geophys. Geo-energ. Geo-resour. (2017). doi:10.1007/s40948-017-0055-5


Once the injection phase of a geological carbon sequestration operation ends, capillary forces are critical for hampering the upward migration of buoyant CO2 to shallower environments. Reservoir heterogeneity is also a key factor controlling plume spreading and trapping efficiency as well as a source of uncertainty about the deep subsurface. However, these two features are typically overlooked or overly simplified by numerical models that emphasize on viscous flow driven by pressure gradients. In particular, when considering far-field regions of storage reservoirs with vanishing pressure gradients, the physics governing the CO2 flow into brine-saturated rocks become dominated by capillary and buoyancy forces. Hence, there is currently a debate on whether numerical models founded on Darcy’s law can capture some of the migration phenomena that characterize long-term CO2 migration in saline formations. In this study, we consider experimental observations from a previous physical model that illustrates flow patterns of a CO2-surrogate plume migrating through a well-characterized sand aquifer saturated with a brine-analog. Then, we compare Monte Carlo sets of invasion percolation simulations with direct observations of plume distribution to evaluate the effects of a heterogeneous capillary pressure field. The observed plume distribution appears to be controlled by a combination of buoyant migration and trapping at capillary barriers under near-hydrostatic pressure conditions. Although these observations are gathered in a simplified and relatively small laboratory system, an analogous behavior has been documented at reservoir scale for the Sleipner storage site, where a series of shale layers inhibited the buoyant migration of the plume.


Invasion percolation Sandbox experiments Surrogate fluids Capillary pressure heterogeneity 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Basic Energy Sciences
  • DE-SC0001114
  • DE-SC0001114
U.S. Department of Energy
  • DE-FE0004630
  • DE-FE0004630
Division of Earth Sciences
  • EAR-1045282

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gulf Coast Carbon Center, Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of GeosciencesUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental ProcessesColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA

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