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Flow in Transforming Porous Media

Final Report Summary - FLOWTRANS (Flow in Transforming Porous Media)

The FlowTrans Initial Training Network offered a unique environment for career development, built on joint challenges of Industry and University partners in a newly emerging supra-disciplinary field, spanning from Physics to Earth Sciences and aiming to understand Flow in Transforming Porous Media. Training of fellows was hosted by 8 Universities and a research institute in synergy with 2 full and 4 associated industry partners and succeeded in the objective of delivering highly-trained mobile researchers to the European market with 11 ESRs and 4 ERs. FlowTrans created a unique research training environment and a new inter-sectorial supra-interdisciplinary field to de-fragment European knowledge and combine industry and universities to harness understanding of basic scientific questions for tackling future challenges in Exploration of Geological Resources. Our research training objectives focused on teaching ESRs and ERs the necessary interdisciplinary skills needed to study Flow in Transforming Porous Media in 6 overarching workshops in addition to local and secondment training. The characterization and the understanding of flow of fluids within rocks and granular media has become an ever-increasing problem in Earth Sciences, Physics, and in many industrial applications, including CO2 sequestration, hydrocarbon migration, ore deposit development, and radioactive waste disposal. One of the main problems is the understanding of flows in transforming porous media (PM), where the rocks and fluid pathways evolve spatially and temporally, for example due to chemical interactions with the flow, due to clogging or due to compaction of the solid matrix. In FlowTrans we studied the feedback mechanisms and their impact on the porous media through an interdisciplinary approach between Earth Scientists and Physicists. We used state of the art analytical and experimental methods on natural systems and rock analogues, and complemented these by multi-scale dynamical simulations. The research led to new basic understanding and new methods that can be directly used in industrial applications.
Our work focused on 4 strands: a) fault zone permeability and mineral reactions, b) creating and clogging dynamic permeability, c) transforming reservoirs, coupling of fast and slow transformation and overarching d) locating flow and transformation, inversion and exploration. In strand a) fault zone permeability and mineral reactions we have been able to develop a new understanding of banding and associated permeability changes in Mississippi Valley Type lead zinc deposits, to develop new understandings of reactions in fault zones at low and high temperature and fluid influx changing phases and fault mechanics, permeability enhancement during replacement reactions and new inversion techniques using stylolites. In summary this package looked at aspects of mineral replacement, pattern formation and ore deposits in general and focuses on the important influence of fault zones on this process. In strand b) creating and clogging dynamic permeability we were able to investigate hydrofracturing and associated seismic signals in reservoirs and compare the patterns with numerical simulations and experiments to enhance interpretation of microseismic data. In this package FlowTrans dealt with the important aspect of how permeability can be created by fast processes like fracturing and how it can be destroyed by clogging. Understanding these processes in an open environment, including universities and the private sector, is important to build the knowledge to better assess the risks associated with hydrofracturing techniques, and to help in the development of clean techniques for the extraction of fluids from tight rocks. In strand c) transforming reservoirs and coupling of fast and slow transformation we have been able to develop a new understanding of reservoir compaction, land slide stability and run-out, modeling of complex flow and pattern formation during weathering and karst formation as well as reactive fracture infiltration and dynamic permeability development. The package dealt with the development of an understand of the effects of stress and chemistry on deformation, how flow in chemically evolving fractures takes place and on the feedbacks between these processes during compaction of sedimentary basins (with special emphasis on the north sea and the Apennine fold and thrust belt in Italy). In the overarching strand d) locating flow and transformation, inversion and exploration we have developed new methods with our non-academic partners. With the company Magnitude we developed new methods to interpret micro-seismic signals using industry and client data. We also refined these techniques with the help of numerical simulations and several experimental setups that were specifically dealing with induced seismicity and fracturing due to induced air or fluid overpressure. This is ongoing work that resulted in the development of software and future projects with Magnitude with the aim to commercialize the products. With the company ORG we were directly working on the interpretation of electro-magnetic inversion techniques to predict the location of hydrocarbon resources off-shore. The newly develop technique is being applied directly by the company. With the company and research organization CSIRO we developed a new inversion technique for the prediction of the location of ore-deposits of the Mississippi Valley type that are associated with “Zebra” replacement dolomites. This application is in review now and is still in the exploratory stage, but will be followed up in future projects in collaboration with the company Amphos, CSIRO and non-academic partners in Peru. With the research institute IRIS, FlowTrans researchers developed new interpretations for compaction estimates during hydrocarbon recovery in the North Sea.
FlowTrans science has important implications for risk assessment associated with seismic hazards along faults and land-slide runout as well as de-risking of resource and energy management including the development of new exploration and monitoring techniques with special emphasis on micro-seismicity, ore deposits, off-shore hydrocarbon resources as well as basin and reservoir analysis. FlowTrans research has been extensively publicized to the scientific community through various FlowTrans led sessions and contributions at international conferences including EGU (2013,14,15,16,17), Gordon Conference on Rock Deformation and AGU and Goldschmidt as well as our international FlowTrans Conference in Strasbourg in 2015. FlowTrans researchers have and will continue to publish FlowTrans research including a special issue on Flow and Transformation in Porous Media in Frontiers in Physics. FlowTrans researchers are also ambassadors of science at schools, the European Researchers Night and numerous additional public outreach activities, for example through the Jardin des Science and education of secondary school teachers in collaboration with the Maison pour la Science.