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Content archived on 2024-05-27

Towards an improved risk assessment of the contaminant spreading in factured underground reservoirs


Problems to be solved
The soil and groundwater contamination by hazardous substances tends to become one of the most significant problems for the environmental and economic policies of the European Union (EU). Macroscopic simulators of the transport of non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) in fractured porous media are required for the implementation of fast and cost-effective risk assessment procedures to contaminated fractured sites. In spite of the progress that has been accomplished on the development of intelligent numerical solvers of the multiphase transport equations in fractured reservoirs, there is a lack of fundamental knowledge concerning the relations of the flow physics with the complex morphology of fractures as well as of self-consistent phenomenological models of the mesoscopic transport coefficients (e.g. absolute permeability, relative permeabilities, hydrodynamic dispersivities) of fractured media.
Such models, properly integrated into industrial macroscopic simulators, are required for the development of generalized, cost-effective and reliable risk assessment methodologies, which are expected to contribute to:
(i) the mapping of the huge number of contaminated sites in EU,
(ii) the rational design of clean-up strategies for the contaminated aquifers of EU, and
(iii) the development of new EU-policies about the sustainable management of soils as natural resources.
Scientific objectives and approach
The overall objective of the project is threefold:
(a) to develop new, self-consistent and true-to-mechanism phenomenological models to describe the transport coefficients of fractured porous media as functions of the fracture morphology and fluid rheology,
(b) to integrate the new phenomenological models into a novel and reliable numerical simulator of the macroscopic contaminant transport in fractured underground reservoirs,
(c) to use the new numerical tool in the development of a generalized methodology of risk assessment and rational design of remedial strategies for contaminated fractured aquifers. In the present project, two different generic contaminated fractured sites located on Europe will be selected. A novel method of fracture characterization will be developed and will be applied to samples of both sites. The one-phase flow, two-phase flow and solute dispersion of Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids through fractured porous media will be studied experimentally on artificial models having structural properties similar to those of the investigated sites, and will be simulated by using methods of the statistical physics of disordered media and computational fluid mechanics. All these analyses will result in novel and true-to-mechanism phenomenological models about the one-phase flow, immiscible two-phase flow and hydrodynamic dispersion in fractured porous media. The self-consistency of all models will be evaluated with reference to lab-scale experiments. The new models will be integrated into an industrial simulator of the contaminant transport in fractured reservoirs. The new simulator will be evaluated with reference to old and new field data, collected from both sites, and will further be used as a tool in the development of a generalized methodology of risk assessment and design of cost-effective and sustainable remedial strategies for contaminated fractured aquifers.
Expected impacts
The know-how and tools that will be developed in the course of this project are expected to be valuable to research organizations, environmental companies and oil & gas industries throughout Europe. With the use of the novel methodologies, the risk assessment of fractured contaminated sites will become cost-effective and reliable, whereas fast decisions of low financial risk will be able to be taken about the remediation of such sites. In this manner, both the competitiveness of the technology suppliers is expected to increase within the European and International market and the quality of the life of people living close to contaminated areas is expected to be improved.

Call for proposal

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Participants (3)