Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Science (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



The study of fundamental flow and transport processes at the pore scale is essential to understanding how the mechanisms affect larger, field-scale, processes that occur in oil and gas recovery, groundwater flow, contaminant transport, and CO2 sequestration. Pore-scale imaging and modeling is one of the techniques used to investigate these fundamental mechanisms. Although extensive development of pore-scale imaging and modeling has occurred recently, some areas still need further advances. In this work, we address two areas: (1) imaging of bulk proppants and proppant-filled fractures under varying loading stress and flow simulation in these systems and (2) nanoparticle (NP) transport modeling in porous media. These are briefly explained below. Rock fracturing, followed by proppant injection, has been used for years to improve oil and gas production rates in low permeability reservoirs and is now routinely used in low-permeability resources such as a shales and tight sands. While field data makes clear the effectiveness of this technique, there is still much room to improve on the science, including how the proppant-filled fracture system responds to changes in loading stress which affect permeability and conductivity. Here, we use high-resolution x-ray computed tomography (XCT) to image two unsaturated rock/fracture/proppant systems under a series of stress levels typical of producing reservoirs: one with shale, one with Berea sandstone. The resulting XCT images were segmented, analyzed for structural and porosity changes, and then used for image-based flow modeling of Stokes flow using both finite element (FEM) and Lattice Boltzmann methods. NPs have been widely used commercially and have the potential to be extensively used in petroleum engineering as stabilizers in enhanced oil recovery operations or as tracers or sensors to detect rock and fluid properties. %In spite of a wide range of applications, many NP transport details are still unknown. In this work, we describe a Lagrangian particle tracking algorithm to model NP transport that can be used to better understand the impact of pore-scale hydrodynamics and surface forces on NP transport. Two XCT images, a Berea sandstone and a 2.5D micromodel, were meshed and used for image-based flow modeling of FEM Stokes flow. The effects of particle size, surface forces, flow rate, particle density, surface capacity, and surface forces mapped to XCT-image based mineralogy were studied.



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Committee Chair

Willson, Clinton S.