Extreme capillary heterogeneities and in situ fluid compartmentalization due to clusters of deformation bands in sandstones

Carla R. Romano, Charlotte Garing, James M. Minto, Sally M. Benson, Zoe K. Shipton, Rebecca J. Lunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Previous work has shown that individual deformation bands act like capillary barriers and influence fluid saturation. More common in nature, however, are clusters of deformation bands that form complex three dimensional geometries. The aim of this study is to analyze the extent and mechanisms of fluid compartmentalization due to clustered bands. Drainage multiphase fluid flow experiments were performed on a Navajo sandstone core sample characterized by diversely oriented clusters of deformation bands, that sub-divide the host rock into several compartments. Medical X-ray CT images were acquired while nitrogen was injected at progressively higher flow rates into a water-saturated core during transient and steady-state conditions. Spatial and temporal analyses of the non-wetting phase plume migration suggest that deformation bands act like capillary barriers and contribute to the development of an extremely tortuous saturation front. Differential pressure behavior across the core is linked to the breakthrough of N2 into the individual compartments, resulting in highly variable N2 saturation throughout the experiment. Migration into downstream compartments occurs via the exceedance of capillary entry pressure in portions of the bands. Simulation models of simplified systems demonstrate that capillary end effects and discontinuities in the deformation bands impact fluid saturation. The experiments and models presented here show that clusters of deformation bands have the potential to strongly compartmentalize a sandstone reservoir. Hence, prior analysis of the geometry of deformation band structures in a reservoir could significantly reduce the risk of overestimating reservoir capacity, and improve predictions of fluid mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103280
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control
Early online date19 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021


  • multiphase fluid flow
  • deformation bands
  • capillary heterogeneity
  • X-ray computed tomography
  • carbon sequestration
  • geological storage


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  • Stanford University

    Carla Romano (Visiting researcher)

    2 Apr 201830 Jul 2018

    Activity: Visiting an external institution typesVisiting an external academic institution

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