Understanding Flow and Transport in Porous and Fractured Media: Bridging the Gap Between Scales and Processes

Peter Kang, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota

Abstract: Fluid flow and transport through fractures controls many important natural and engineered processes in the subsurface. However, characterizing flow and transport  through fractured media is challenging due to the high uncertainty and large heterogeneity associated with porous and fractured rock properties. I will start by presenting various research projects that I conducted to improve predictability of fluid flow and mass transport in fractured media. The examples span multiple scales: pore- to fracture- to field-scale.


In addition to the challenges due to multi-scale heterogeneity, the strong coupling among subsurface processes such as biogeochemical and geomechanical processes can significantly alter pore structure and reduce or increase pore space. For example, geologic fractures are always under significant overburden stress, and changes in the stress state can lead to changes in the fracture’s ability to conduct fluids. While confining stress has been shown to impact fluid flow through fractures in a fundamental way, the impact of confining stress on transport through fractured rock remains poorly understood. I will introduce my recent work on the impact of geological stress on flow and transport through fracture media. Our results point to a heretofore unrecognized link between geomechanics and mass transport in natural fractured media. Finally, I will conclude by introducing research projects that I initiated at UMN that combines visual laboratory experiments and numerical simulations to improve our fundamental understanding on how the coupling among processes control reactive transport in porous and fractured media.


About the Speaker: Dr. Peter Kang is an Assistant Professor and a Gibson Chair of Hydrogeology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota. His group combines theory, high performance numerical simulation, and visual laboratory experiments to understand how the coupling between multiple processes such as biogeochemical, thermal, and mechanical processes controls fluid flow and reactive transport across scales: from pore to fracture to field scale.  Before joining UMN, Peter was a research scientist at Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) from 2015 to 2018. He was a postdoctoral associate in the Earth Resources Laboratory at MIT where he collaborated with geophysicists to characterize fractured media, and he received his MSc (2010) and PhD (2014) in Civil & Environmental Engineering at MIT.


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