Pore-scale capillary pressure analysis using multi-scale X-ray micromotography


A multi-scale synchrotron-based X-ray microtomographic dataset of residually trapped air after gravity-driven brine imbibition was acquired for three samples with differing pore topologies and morphologies; image volumes were reconstructed with voxel sizes from 4.44 µm down to 0.64 µm. Capillary pressure distributions among the population of trapped ganglia were investigated by calculating interfacial curvature in order to assess the potential for remobilization of residually-trapped non-wetting ganglia due to differences in capillary pressure presented by neighbor ganglia. For each sample, sintered glass beads, Boise sandstone and Fontainebleau sandstone, sub-volumes with different voxel sizes were analyzed to quantify air/brine interfaces and interfacial curvatures and investigate the effect of image resolution on both fluid phase identification and curvature estimates. Results show that the method developed for interfacial curvature estimation leads to reliable capillary pressure estimates for gas ganglia. Higher resolution images increase confidence in curvature calculations, especially for the sandstone samples that display smaller gas-brine interfaces which are then represented by a higher number of voxels when imaged with a micron or sub-micron voxels size. The analysis of sub-volumes from the Boise and Fontainebleau dataset highlights the presence of a residually-trapped gas phase consisting of ganglia located in one or few pores and presenting significantly different capillary pressures, especially in the case of Fontainebleau sandstone. As a result, Ostwald ripening could occur, leading to gas transfer from ganglia with higher capillary pressure to surrounding ganglia with lower capillary pressures. More generally, at the pore-scale, most gas ganglia do present similar capillary pressures and Ostwald ripening would then not represent a major mechanism for residually-trapped gas transfer and remobilization.

Advances in Water Resources