X-Ray Vision for Reservoir Rock

Researchers have developed a revolutionary X-ray imaging and simulation technique that has the potential to impact a wide range of applications ranging from oil and gas recovery to carbon sequestration.

Advancements in imaging technology now allow us to directly visualize the movement of fluids within reservoir rocks and other geologic materials, which has only recently become a reality. In this work we combine fast synchrotron-based X-ray computed microtomography and high performance computing to elucidate how oil flows through reservoir rock. Fluid flow simulations performed on Oak Ridge National Lab’s Titan supercomputer, the fastest machine in the United States, are used to supplement experimentally-generated data. This approach allows us to track oil clusters in space and time for the first time ever. We find that disconnected oil, often assumed to be immobile, can move and contribute to flow. These dynamics can enhance oil mobility and suggest mechanisms to improve oil recovery from reservoir rock. These exciting advancements push the level of detail at which we can study fluid flow through porous rock.  We now can study the physics at the length scale of a few micrometres and upscale the physics to the reservoir scale. These developments are the leading edge of multiphase flow research since they facilitate the development of high fidelity models that can improve the way in which we design subsurface engineering technologies.

For more information about this technique, please read the article published in Physical Review E

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