A new approach to model the spatiotemporal development of biofilm phase in porous media

Authors

  • Ali Bozorg,

    1. Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
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  • Arindom Sen,

    1. Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
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  • Ian D. Gates

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
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E-mail ian.gates@ucalgary.ca; Tel. (+1) (403) 220 5752; Fax (+1) (403) 284 4852.

Summary

Bacteria can exist within biofilms that are attached to the solid matrix of a porous medium. Under certain conditions, the biomass can fully occupy the pore space leading to reduced hydraulic conductivity and mass transport. Here, by treating biofilm as a growing, high-viscosity phase, a novel macroscopic approach to model biofilm spatial expansion and its corresponding effects on porous medium hydraulic properties is presented. The separate yet coupled flow of the water and biofilm phases is handled by using relative permeability curves that allow for biofilm movement within the porous medium and bioclogging effects. Fluid flow is governed by Darcy's law and component transport is set by the convection–diffusion equation reaction terms for each component. Here, the system of governing equations is solved by using a commercial multiphase flow reservoir simulator, which is used to validate the model against published laboratory experiments. A comparison of the model and experimental observations reveal that the model provides a reasonable means to predict biomass development in the porous medium. The results reveal that coupled flow of water and movement of biofilm, as described by relative permeability curves, is complex and has a large impact on the development of biomass and consequent bioclogging in the porous medium.

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