Reservoir Engineering

Tim Kneafsey and Barry Freifeld in lab burning methane hydrate made using ice as a starting material. Samples on the left are pure methane hydrate (far left) and methane hydrate in sand (38% porosity, 40% hydrate saturation).

Researchers in the Hydrogeology Department are studying ways to enhance production of energy from subsurface reservoirs containing methane gas hydrates, geothermal energy, and oil and gas resources. A sustained laboratory campaign is being carried out to uncover fundamental properties of methane hydrates, such as dissociation kinetics and constitutive models, that can be incorporated into the world’s leading methane hydrate simulator, TOUGH-Fx/Hydrate (which was developed by Hydrogeology Department researchers). To maximize the recovery and efficient use of hydrocarbon energy resources, the Department scientists use rock imaging (for example, via computed tomography scanning and electron microscope) and a wide range of advanced computational approaches. The computational approaches for pore-scale studies include three-dimensional morphologic analysis of pore-space geometry from tomographic and computer-generated imaging of rocks, pore-scale capillary pressure and relative permeability modeling, pore-network and continuum modeling of multiphase fluid flow, and control and optimization of fluid-flow and geomechanical processes. Department scientists also develop approaches for characterizing fracture systems in an Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) through interpretation of field tracer test results and exploring the use of CO2 as a working fluid in EGS.