Quantification of the Impact of Acidified Brine on Fracture-Matrix Transport in a Naturally Fractured Shale Using in Situ Imaging and Modeling

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding flow, transport, chemical reactions, and hydromechanical processes in fractured geologic materials is key for optimizing a range of subsurface processes including carbon dioxide and hydrogen storage, unconventional energy resource extraction, and geothermal energy recovery. Flow and transport processes in naturally fractured shale rocks have been challenging to characterize due to experimental complexity and the multiscale nature of quantifying continuum scale descriptions of mass exchange between micrometer-scale fractures and nanometer-scale pores. In this study, we use positron emission tomography (PET) to image the transport of a conservative tracer in a naturally fractured Wolfcamp shale core before and after the core was exposed to low pH brine conditions. Image-based experimental observations are interpreted by fitting an analytical transport model to fracture-containing voxels in the core. Results of this analysis indicate subtle increases in matrix diffusivity and a slightly more uniform fracture velocity distribution following exposure to low pH conditions. These observations are compared with a multicomponent one-dimensional reactive transport model that indicates the capacity for a 10% increase in porosity at the fracture-matrix interface as a result of the low pH brine exposure. This porosity change is the result of the dissolution of carbonate minerals in the shale matrix to low pH conditions. This image-based workflow represents a new approach for quantifying spatially resolved fracture-matrix transport processes and provides a foundation for future work to better understand the role of coupled transport, reaction, and mechanical processes in naturally fractured rocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12101-12112
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 17 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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