• Peer-Reviewed
AIChE Journal · 2009

The effect of natural flow of aquifers and associated dispersion on the onset of buoyancy-driven convection in a saturated porous medium

Hassan Hassanzadeh, Mehran Pooladi-Darvish, and David W. Keith

Carbon dioxide injection into deep saline aquifers is an important option for managing CO₂ emissions. Injected CO₂ dissolves into formation brines from above, increasing brine density and creating an unstable hydrodynamic state favorable for natural convection. Long-term buoyancy-driven flow of high-density CO₂-saturated brine leads to faster trapping through improved dissolution and can reduce the risk of CO₂ leakage from storage sites. We investigate the role of natural flow of aquifers and associated dispersion on the onset of convection. A linear stability analysis of a transient concentration field in a laterally infinite, horizontal, and saturated porous layer with steady horizontal flow is presented. The layer is subjected to a sudden rise in CO₂ concentration from the top and is closed from the bottom. Solution of the stability equations is obtained using a Galerkin technique and the resulting equations are integrated numerically. We found simple scaling relationships that follow tDc~60(1 + PeT)Ra⁻² for the onset time of convection and a~0.05Ra/(1 + PeT) for the wavenumber of the initial instabilities. Results reveal that transverse dispersion increases the time to onset of convection for the entire range of Ra. Furthermore, transverse dispersion decreases the critical wavenumber of the instabilities. These results facilitate screening candidate sites for geological CO₂ storage.

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