Reactive transport simulation of fracture channelization and transmissivity evolution

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Underground fractures serve as flow conduits, and they may produce unwanted migration of water and other fluids in the subsurface. An example is the migration and leakage of greenhouse gases in the context of geologic carbon sequestration. This study has generated new understanding about how acids Erode carbonate fracture surfaces and the positive feedback between reaction and flow. A two-dimensional reactive transport model was developed and used to investigate the extent to which geochemical factors influence fracture permeability and transmissivity evolution in carbonate rocks. The only mineral modeled as reactive is calcite, a fast-reacting mineral that is abundant in subsurface formations. The X-ray computed tomography dataset from a previous experimental study of fractured cores exposed to carbonic acid served as a testbed to benchmark the model simulation results. The model was able to capture not only erosion of fracture surfaces but also the specific phenomenon of channelization, which produces accelerating transmissivity increase. Results corroborated experimental findings that higher reactivity of the influent solution leads to strong channelization without substantial mineral dissolution. Simulations using mineral maps of calcite in a specimen of Amherstburg limestone demonstrated that mineral heterogeneity can either facilitate or suppress the development of flow channels depending on the spatial patterns of reactive mineral. In these cases, fracture transmissivity may increase rapidly, increase slowly, or stay constant, and for all these possibilities, the calcite mineral continues to dissolve. Collectively, these results illustrate that fluid chemistry and mineral spatial patterns need to be considered in predictions of reaction-induced fracture alteration and risks of fluid migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-101
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Engineering Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • caprock
  • carbonate
  • channelization
  • fractures
  • geologic carbon sequestration;


Dive into the research topics of 'Reactive transport simulation of fracture channelization and transmissivity evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this