Modeling biofilm growth in the presence of carbon dioxide and water flow in the subsurface


The concentration of greenhouse gases—particularly carbon dioxide (CO2)—in the atmosphere has been on the rise in the past decades. One of the methods which have been proposed to help reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions is the capture of CO2 from large, stationary point sources and storage in deep geological formations. The caprock is an impermeable geological layer which prevents the leakage of stored CO2, and its integrity is of utmost importance for storage security. Due to the high pressure build-up during injection, the caprock in the vicinity of the well is particularly at risk of fracturing. Biofilms could be used as biobarriers which help prevent the leakage of CO2 through the caprock in injection well vicinity by blocking leakage pathways. The biofilm could also protect well cement from corrosion by CO2-rich brine.The goal of this paper is to develop and test a numerical model which is capable of simulating the development of a biofilm in a CO2 storage reservoir. This involves the description of the growth of the biofilm, flow and transport in the geological formation, and the interaction between the biofilm and the flow processes. Important processes which are accounted for in the model include the effect of biofilm growth on the permeability of the formation, the hazardous effect of supercritical CO2 on suspended and attached bacteria, attachment and detachment of biomass, and two-phase fluid flow processes. The model is tested by comparing simulation results to experimental data.




Ebigbo A, Helmig R, Cunningham AB, Class H, Gerlach R, "Modeling biofilm growth in the presence of carbon dioxide and water flow in the subsurface," Advances in Water Resources, 2010 33(7):762–781.
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