Fluidics for Carbon Management

Stewardship of our existing fossil fuel reserves and their usage is an important part of the  transition to renewable energy.   Our group leverages microfluidics to inform resource extraction, reduce the carbon intensity of oil recovery operations, screen conditions and additives for efficient oil recovery, assess pore-scale geochemical processes, assess CO2 storage potential, and inform – industry, academia and government – on pore-scale processes in subsurface processes.

Informing Oil Recovery

We recently successfully demonstrated live quantitative pore-scale visualization of Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) within a microfluidic pore network. A method for rapid screening and selection of additives for SAGD is underway. In addition, we are developing nanoparticle stabilized CO2 foams for combined storage and utilization in enhanced oil recovery.  Nanoparticle stabilized foams offer greater mobility and conformance control, as demonstrated through microfluidic foam generation and testing. We also explore microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR), whereby a bacterial inoculum is injected with nutrients into an existing well as part of tertiary oil recovery. It has been shown that bacteria can dislodge trapped oil through a number of mechanisms, including bio-surfactant production and reduced interfacial tension, improved pore wettability, biogenic gas production, bio-clogging and biodegradation of oil into short chain hydrocarbons. We are exploring these mechanisms within microfluidic environments with reservoir-relevant pore geometries, temperatures, pressures and fluids.

Developing Rapid Methods for Oil, Gas, and CO2 Fluid Analysis

We have developed a series of microfluidics and optics based instrumentation systems to measure thermodyanmic fluid properties and transport properties.  These efforts benefit from traditional strengths of microfluidics in fluid analysis, as well as the capacity for high temperatures and pressures – relevant to reservoir conditions. These microfluidic approaches can provide an increase in accuracy as well as speed (up to 2 orders of magnitude) with much reduced external infrastructure cost.

Informing Carbon Capture, Transport and Storage

Our group was the first to visualize and study the precipitation dynamics of salt after CO2 injection in deep saline aquifers. We have also developed rapid methods to detect the dew point of water in representative flue gas mixtures, which is a parameter of critical importance in CO2 pipelines. Expertise developed in this area is currently being applied to the development nanoparticle stabilized CO2 foams for combined storage and enhanced oil recovery (EOR).