Pore-scale analysis of coal cleat network evolution through liquid nitrogen treatment: A Micro-Computed Tomography investigation

Hamed Akhondzadeh, Alireza Keshavarz, Ahmed Z. Al-Yaseri, Muhammad Ali, Faisal Ur Rahman Awan, Xin Wang, Yongfei Yang, Stefan Iglauer, Maxim Lebedev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Coalbed methane extraction suffers from low permeability, and liquid nitrogen treatment has been suggested as one of the methods to address this issue. This study thus investigates cryogenic liquid N2 fracturing of a bituminous coal at pore scale through 3D X-ray micro-computed tomography. The μ-CT results clearly demonstrate that freezing the coal with liquid nitrogen increases the porosity by over 11% and creates fracture planes with large apertures originating from the pre-existing cleats in the rock. The images also suggest connection establishment of the cleat network with originally isolated pores and micro-cleats following the freezing, thereby increasing pore network connectivity. Furthermore, SEM images of the frozen sample highlights the appearance of continuous wide conductive fractures with the maximum aperture size of 9 μm. The analysis of mechanical properties through Nano-indentation technique shows a decrease of up to 25% in the indentation modulus due to increase in the compressibility of the cracked rock. Moreover, as the main purpose of this fracturing treatment, the permeability evolution of the coal is examined computationally and experimentally. Lattice Boltzmann simulations on the μ-CT images highlight two-fold enhancement in permeability measure of the treated rock. Additionally, the outcome of core flooding tests shows 2.5 times increase in the permeability measure after liquid nitrogen exposure. This study thus provides a visual understanding of fracturing mechanism associated with liquid nitrogen treatment of a coal, and quantifies the pore structure and permeability evolution of the rock.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
StatePublished - Feb 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Geology
  • Fuel Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Pore-scale analysis of coal cleat network evolution through liquid nitrogen treatment: A Micro-Computed Tomography investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this