Focus is on multi-phase flow in natural and engineered, low and ultra-low permeability geomaterials (e.g. caprocks, well bore cements, halite and engineered clays), and their associated deformation behaviour. Measurements include: saturation and consolidation properties; intrinsic permeability (or transmissivity); anisotropy; specific storage; coupled flow parameters (e.g. osmotic permeability); capillary entry, breakthrough and threshold pressures; gas permeability function; drained and undrained compressibilities; and rheological (creep) properties. Laboratory experiments are performed under simulated in situ conditions (stress, pore pressure, temperature and chemical environment). Three key areas explored are: (i) baseline characterisation of hydromechanical properties, (ii) influence of stress path and stress history on transport properties and (iii) transmissivity of fractures, faults and discontinuities (e.g., wellbore interfaces). Tests are designed to provide quantitative data for mathematical modelling of ultra-low permeability materials, together with process understanding of key transport mechanisms. Key equipment includes: high pressure isotropic permeameters (70 MPa); constant volume permeameters (70 MPa); high pressure triaxial permeameter (70 MPa); heavy-duty, high-precision shear-rigs; high temperature, high pressure geochemical flow reactor (130 MPa at 140°C); and novel tracer systems (nano particle injection or radiological tagging of gas) to characterise and identify potential migration pathways.
The TPRL is one of the leading centres in Europe for the study of fluid movement in ultra-low permeability media. The facility is well known within the radioactive waste disposal and carbon capture and storage sectors for high quality experimental work and process-based interpretation. Unique BGS-manufactured equipment and experimental systems provide high-resolution and high accuracy data. Physical properties are routinely examined in ultra-low permeability materials (~1x10-22 m2 and lower). Capability in deformation and fluid flow relevant to CCS consists of a blend of standard and bespoke equipment with more than 15 experimental rigs. These allow stress states and temperature to be simulated across expected in situ reservoir conditions. Tests can be conducted with pure water, brine, helium, carbon dioxide (gaseous, liquid, super critical and saturated solution) and nitrogen. Data is collected using a state-of-the-art National Instrument logging system and tests can be monitored and operated by remote control online.
The TPRL has a long track-record of involvement in many national (NERC, EPSRC, government) and international collaborative projects, working with academics and operators across Europe, Canada and Asia (including RWML, SKB, Nagra, Andra, JAEA, NWMO, COVRA; Shell, Statoil, KPN, BP etc.). The laboratory operators have a wide-reaching scientific impact, coordinating large-scale projects and publishing widely as a result. Complimentary services available to the laboratory include sample preparation, geotechnical characterisation, thin section preparation and petrological/microstructural analysis.