Mixed imbibition controls the advance of wetting fluid in multiscale geological media

Takeshi Kurotori, Manju Pharkavi Murugesu, Christopher Zahasky, Bolivia Vega, Jennifer L. Druhan, Sally M. Benson, Anthony R. Kovscek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Imbibition plays a central role during multiphase flows in geological media; yet, our understanding of imbibition dynamics across the multiscale features of rocks, including fractures, microcracks, and heterogeneous matrices is limited. Here, we deployed a unique combination of micro- and clinical X-ray CT imaging to probe directly the spatiotemporal evolution of imbibition in a natural, multiscale shale sample. The method enabled unraveling of mixed imbibition behavior, with spontaneous imbibition rates in the matrix pores and microcracks driven by capillarity proceeding as ∝t−1/2, whereas pressure-driven flows in the macroscopic fractures yield apparent imbibition rates with ∝t−1 scaling. Regardless of the aperture, we showed that spontaneous imbibition proceeds uniformly away from the fractures. The effects of microcracks are further investigated by comparing the dynamics of the imbibition fronts with and without microcracks. These results highlight the paramount role of microcracks on anomalous front roughening and the need to account for microcracks appropriately in the development of predictive theoretical models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104429
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Forced imbibition
  • Fractures
  • Microcracks
  • Multiscale imaging
  • Nanoporous shale
  • Spontaneous imbibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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