A field and modeling study of fractured rock permeability reduction using microbially induced calcite precipitation

Mark O. Cuthbert, Lindsay A. McMillan, Stephanie Handley-Sidhu, Michael S. Riley, Dominique J. Tobler, Vernon R. Phoenix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Microbially induced calcite precipitation (MICP) offers an attractive alternative to traditional grouting technologies for creating barriers to groundwater flow and containing subsurface contamination, but has only thus far been successfully demonstrated at the laboratory scale and predominantly in porous media. We present results of the first field experiments applying MICP to reduce fractured rock permeability in the subsurface. Initially, the ureolytic bacterium, Sporosarcina pasteurii, was fixed in the fractured rock. Subsequent injection of cementing fluid comprising calcium chloride and urea resulted in precipitation of large quantities (approximately 750 g) of calcite; significant reduction in the transmissivity of a single fracture over an area of several m2 was achieved in around 17 h of treatment. A novel numerical model is also presented which simulates the field data well by coupling flow and bacterial and solute reactive transport processes including feedback due to aperture reduction via calcite precipitation. The results show that MICP can be successfully manipulated under field conditions to reduce the permeability of fractured rock and suggest that an MICP-based technique, informed by numerical models, may form the basis of viable solutions to aid pollution mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13637-13643
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number23
Early online date22 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • microbially induced calcite precipitation
  • field experiment
  • pollution mitigation
  • subsurface contamination
  • groundwater flow


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