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E308: Stabilising CO2: Multiphase flow in heterogeneous porous media (Lead Supervisor: Jerome Neufeld, BP Institute/DAMTP/Department of Earth Sciences)

*Please note this is a fully funded EPSRC project with CASE Partner Shell*

Supervisors: Jerome Neufeld (BPI) (DAMTP) (Earth Sciences) and Mike Bickle (Earth Sciences)

Importance of the area of research:

Geological carbon storage involves the injection and storage of CO2 underground in geological formations and offers one of the more economical and practical methods for society to manage its transition to a low-carbon economy. A key aspect of geological carbon storage is the need to ensure that the storage is safe and efficient. This requires the ability to model the fate of the CO2 over an ~10 000 year storage period. Key mechanisms which will increase the security of CO2 storage are residual trapping, where some CO2 is retained in pore space by surface tension, and solubility trapping in which CO2 dissolves in formation brines. The rate at which both these mechanisms operate is strongly controlled by the small and medium scale (10 cm to 100’s m) heterogeneities in the permeability and surface properties of porous rocks.

Project summary:

Heterogeneities within porous aquifers are present at a wide range of scales and may enhance the dissolution and capillary trapping of buoyant CO2 due to increased mixing, or alternatively limit the contact area through flow focusing towards high permeability pathways.  Analogue fluid systems, which mimic the the effects of capillary forces in porous media or the dissolution of CO2 will be used to study the mixing in laboratory systems at the meter scale with centimetre scale heterogeneities.  The results of the laboratory experiments will be used to inform numerical and mathematical models of mixing in layered strata.  The laboratory and mathematical models of heterogeneity will be informed by geological models of potential North Sea storage aquifers.

What the student will do: 

This student will develop laboratory experiments and theoretical analysis for miscible currents with large viscosity differences, and for the flow of immiscible fluids in layered structures. While the modelling will be based on the field examples, the theoretical and experimental tools developed will be generic and applicable to a wide range of heterogeneous geological media.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Huppert, H. E., Neufeld, J. A. (2013). The Fluid Mechanics of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration. Ann. Rev. Fluid Mech., 46, 255–272.

Kampman, N., Bickle, M., Wigley, M., Dubacq, B. (2014). Fluid flow and CO2-fluid-mineral interactions during CO2-storage in sedimentary basins. Chem. Geol., 369(C), 22–50.

Cowton,L.R, Neufeld, J.A., White, N.J., Bickle, M. J., White, J. C., Chadwick, R. A. (2016). An inverse method for estimating thickness and volume with time of a thin CO2-filled layer at the Sleipner Field, North Sea, J. Geophys. Res., 121, 5068–5085.

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

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