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Chemical transport in partially saturated porous media

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 15, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr Ronny Pini, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London, UK;
Dr Weparn Julian Tay, BP Technology Centre, Pangbourne, UK

An opportunity exists to undertake a PhD in the Complex Porous Media Lab ( in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London in collaboration with BP, UK.

Project description

The transport of chemicals in multiphase flows finds applications in many engineering problems, many of which occur in natural environments, including the geological storage of CO2 or enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In the latter case, oil and water coexist in the pore space, and their spatial distribution is controlled by the local displacement velocities and the viscosity contrast between the two fluids. During production by waterflooding, capillary action leads to the formation of a disconnected oil phase that remains trapped into the pore space, as a so-called residual phase. Surfactant-polymer (SP) flooding can reduce trapping by lowering both the water-oil interfacial tension and mobility ratio, but field application is limited due to surfactant costs and process complexity. Understanding the mixing process between the liquid phases involved in the displacement process is critical in the design of improved chemical EOR techniques, but at present the key mechanisms that control both the trapping and mobilization of the oil are not fully understood.

The aim of this project is to quantify and describe the impact of water content on solute dispersion and mixing, and its effect on oil recovery. The successful candidate will carry out experiments augmented by in-situ imagery to provide direct observations of the dynamics of chemical transport in partially saturated rocks, including various SP formulations with and without polymer. A unique aspect of the proposed approach is the combined use of X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to enable the acquisition of a suite of benchmark experiments showing heterogeneity, fluid distribution and chemical transport in both simple and complex porous media. One- and three-dimensional numerical models will be used to support laboratory observations and to obtain useful parameters that describe the mixing process in partially saturated porous media.

Student Eligibility and Application Process

The PhD scholarship is available from October 1st, 2020 and covers the 4-year value of stipend, fees and incidental costs through EPSRC’s Industrial CASE Partnership. Applicants must meet the EPSRC residence requirement, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK (EU nationals must have settled status in the UK) and should hold or expect to obtain a First-Class Honours degree at Master’s level (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering (or a related field). The post is based in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus). The student is expected to spend at least three months at BP premises during the 4-year studentship, where they will also be involved in supporting experimentation.

Informal enquiries about the post and the application process can be made to Dr. Ronny Pini () by including a CV and motivation letter with contact details of two academic referees.

Related Subjects

How good is research at Imperial College London in Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 172.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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