A one-dimensional model of vertical gas plume migration through a heterogeneous porous medium

Dmitriy Silin*, Tad W. Patzek, Sally M. Benson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This work is motivated by the growing interest in injecting carbon dioxide into deep geological formations as a means of avoiding its atmospheric emissions and consequent global warming. Ideally, the injected greenhouse gas stays in the injection zone for a geologic time, eventually dissolves in the formation brine and remains trapped by mineralization. However, one of the potential problems associated with the geologic method of sequestration is that naturally present or inadvertently created conduits in the cap rock may result in a gas leakage from primary storage. Even in supercritical state, the carbon dioxide viscosity and density are lower than those of the formation brine. Buoyancy tends to drive the leaked CO2plume upward. Theoretical and experimental studies of buoyancy-driven supercritical CO2 flow, including estimation of time scales associated with plume evolution and migration, are critical for developing technology, monitoring policy, and regulations for safe carbon dioxide geologic sequestration. In this study, we obtain simple estimates of vertical plume propagation velocity taking into account the density and viscosity contrast between CO2 and brine. We describe buoyancy-driven countercurrent flow of two immiscible phases by a Buckley-Leverett type model. The model predicts that a plume of supercritical carbon dioxide in a homogeneous water-saturated porous medium does not migrate upward like a bubble in bulk water. Rather, it spreads upward until it reaches a seal or until it becomes immobile. A simple formula requiring no complex numerical calculations describes the velocity of plume propagation. This solution is a simplification of a more comprehensive theory of countercurrent plume migration [Silin, D., Patzek, T.W., Benson, S.M., 2007. A Model of Buoyancy-driven Two-phase Countercurrent Fluid Flow. Laboratory Report LBNL-62607. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA]. In a layered reservoir, the simplified solution predicts a slower plume front propagation relative to a homogeneous formation with the same harmonic mean permeability. In contrast, the model yields much higher plume propagation estimates in a high-permeability conduit like a vertical fracture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-310
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Buoyancy
  • Countercurrent flow
  • Geologic sequestration
  • Plume migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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