Fluid flow in the subsurface occurs in both porous rock matrices and in open fractures. Matrix flow is conventionally modelled in 3D cellular grids through which fluid flow is modelled in finite difference simulators. Such simulators are poorly designed to address flow in fractures, particularly in situations where fractures are not pervasive such as in fault damage zones or in tensile fracture swarms, in which length scales, and hence required cell sizes, vary dramatically. Although such features are extremely common in nature, flow though these networks is poorly captured using conventional modelling techniques yet forecasting flow in the subsurface is fundamental in resource industries.
New techniques of surface-based modelling (Rapid Reservoir Modelling, ‘RRM’) have been developed at Heriot-Watt IPE in collaboration with other institutions and have a clear application to the problem of fluid flow in irregular fractures networks, currently unexplored. It is proposed to apply these techniques (or others) with a view to developing new workflows with practical application to improve forecasts of subsurface flow in irregularly fractured media.
The work has application in oil and gas field production, particularly in mature fields where pressure differentials over the field life cycle have created or enhanced flow through fracture systems. There is therefore a synergy with the new Masters Programme at IPE in Mature Field Management. The work also applies to fracture networks hosting geothermal systems and therefore applies equally to post-carbon subsurface energy provision, a core topic of research in IPE and the Lyell Centre.
The work would involve:
- a review of existing techniques for quantifying fluid flow in fractures, covering hydrocarbon, geothermal and water industries - generalisation of generic fracture network geometries based on suitable field analogues, including effective network properties and length scales; - the application of new surface-based techniques for modelling these networks under differing fluid conditions (single and multi-phase) and - benchmarking vs. current fracture modelling options. The objective is to improve our capacity to predict fluid flow in subsurface energy management, and is focussed equally on the carbon and post-carbon eras.
Informal enquiries should be directed to the primary supervisor, Dr Mark Bentley.
Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.
Please complete our online application form and select PhD programme Petroleum Engineering, Petroleum Geoscience or Applied Geoscience and include the project reference, title and supervisor names on your application. Applicants who do not include these details on their application may not be considered.
Please also provide a written proposal, at least one side of A4, outlining how you would approach the research project. You will also be required to upload a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts and one academic reference. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.
Applicants MUST be available to start the course of study in October 2019.
Scholarships will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of approximately £14,999 for the 36 month duration of the project.