The dynamics of porosity evolution are explored during mineral precipitation that is induced by the mixing of two fluids of different compositions. During mineral precipitation in geological formations, the physical parameters that characterize the porous matrix, such as porosity and specific surface area, can change significantly. A series of coupled equations that determine the changes in porosity is outlined and solved for a 2D model domain using a finite element scheme. Using model parameters equivalent to those for calcite precipitation in a saline system, the evolution of porosity is examined for two types of porous media: (1) an initially homogeneous system and (2) a heterogeneous system containing high porosity regions that serve initially as preferential flow paths. In addition, the influence of two different expressions that relate specific surface area to porosity is explored. The simulations in both domains indicated that porosity was reduced primarily in the regions in which significant degrees of mixing occurred. Although an effective barrier was created in these regions, the fluids bypassed the clogged areas allowing precipitation to continue farther "downstream". Furthermore, mixing-induced precipitation can account for systems in which some high porosity regions are filled while others remain almost unchanged. Thus, mixing-induced precipitation represents a viable mechanism for the infilling of pores in fractured and porous rocks. The simulations also demonstrate that the choice of functional form for specific surface area plays an important role in controlling porosity patterns by influencing both the kinetics of precipitation and the permeability of the porous medium. As specific surface area is currently one of the least constrained parameters in models of porosity evolution, this result highlights the need for future experimental studies in this field of research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Andrea Cortis is thanked for his helpful comments concerning numerical and theoretical aspects of the study. The Israel Science Foundation is thanked for financial support (contract no. 598/04). Robert Lowell and three anonymous reviewers are thanked for their constructive comments.
- Reactive transport
- Specific surface area