Visualizing and quantifying biomineralization in wellbore analog reactors
Norton, Drew Owen
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Subsurface fluid injection is a proposed method for the storage of hydrocarbon fuels and the mitigation of fossil fuel emissions. Concerns about leakage exist when storing fluids in the subsurface given their potential to damage functional groundwater aquifers or be emitted to the atmosphere. Defects detrimental to the integrity of subsurface storage systems can occur in and around the wellbore, thus fluid storage systems are heavily dependent on the cement surrounding the wellbore to maintain a seal. A method proposed to seal defects in the subsurface is Microbially Induced Calcium Carbonate Precipitation (MICP). MICP is a technique that uses low viscosity fluids and microorganisms (~2 microns diameter) to seal defects troublesome to subsurface fluid storage. In the MICP process, microorganisms such as Sporosarcina pasteurii that contain the enzyme urease catalyze the hydrolysis of urea to produce ammonium and carbonate species. When this process occurs in the presence of dissolved calcium, calcium carbonate may precipitate. To study MICP in defects common to the wellbore, two reactors systems were created. The first was constructed to mimic the geometry of the wellbore and allowed the visual observation of MICP formation. The second quantified MICP in a cement channel defect using X-ray computed microtomography. A reduction in apparent permeability and void fraction was observed in both systems, demonstrating the ability of MICP to restrict fluid flow in defects common to the wellbore. Observations made during these experiments will aid in improving the safety and efficacy of subsurface fluid storage systems.