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Studying Gas Flow in Qatari Subsurface using 3D X-rays Images | Qatar University

Studying Gas Flow in Qatari Subsurface using 3D X-rays Images

2021-09-14

The state of Qatar subsurface

The state of Qatar possesses many subsurface reservoirs which are distinguished by large capacity and high permeability; and are used to serve water and energy security. Water aquifers are utilized to store rainwater through recharge wells, and to aid more than 6,500 agricultural wells, supporting food security especially after the blockade. The state harnesses gas and oil reservoirs to provide energy locally, and their products contribute 90% of Qatar’s exports. Based on Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar aims to increase the reservoirs’ sustainable use, by increasing the strategic water reserves, and injecting CO2 to enhance oil production, and to reduce global warming through carbon sequestration.

Pores clogging blocks fluids movement

Reservoirs and wells face an inevitable deterioration issue after long use, often because the pores between the rock’s grains, through which the fluids flow, begin to clog due to fine particles migration. Pores clogging blocks fluids movement, resulting in well deterioration, reservoir damage, or the inability to recharge the aquifer. This problem is called "Formation Damage", it causes annual losses of more than $200 billion globally. Since pores controls fluids movements, their microscopic scale governs the physical phenomena at the field level. Therefore, microscopic research at the pore-scale is crucial to understand and develop applications for the subsurface.

3D microscopic images

Qatar University leads a research group consisting of several prestigious universities , the group aims at studying such phenomena using the Synchrotron at Argonne National Laboratory in the USA, Eng. Jamal Hannun, a civil engineering PhD candidate, works within this group, led by Prof. Riyadh Al-Raoush from the Civil Engineering Department; Synchrotron x-rays which are 1,000 times brighter than sunlight, were used to create 3D microscopic images, to study how the type and concentration of fines affects fluids movement within the pores, to understand the effect of water-swelling and non-swelling fine particles. The findings revealed that the pattern of gas flow is linked to fines concentration; gas flows continuously at low fines concentrations, as shown in the image above, while minute cracks appear when there is a large concentration of non-swelling fines, although gas flows constantly. The flow is cut off for water-swelling particles, making gas extraction harder. The study presented direct visual evidence of these discoveries, which benefit engineers and researchers in Qatar and around the world.