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Droplet fragmentation: 3D imaging of a previously unidentified pore-scale process during multiphase flow in porous media

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Tannaz Pak
  • Ian B. Butler
  • Sebastian Geiger
  • Marinus I. J. Van Dijke
  • Ken S. Sorbie

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1947 - 1952
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2015


Using X-ray computed microtomography, we have visualized and quantified the in situ structure of a trapped nonwetting phase (oil) in a highly heterogeneous carbonate rock after injecting a wetting phase (brine) at low and high capillary numbers. We imaged the process of capillary desaturation in 3D and demonstrated its impacts on the trapped nonwetting phase cluster size distribution. We have identified a previously unidentified pore-scale event during capillary desaturation. This pore-scale event, described as droplet fragmentation of the nonwetting phase, occurs in larger pores. It increases volumetric production of the nonwetting phase after capillary trapping and enlarges the fluid−fluid interface, which can enhance mass transfer between the phases. Droplet fragmentation therefore has implications for a range of multiphase flow processes in natural and engineered porous media with complex heterogeneous pore spaces.

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