The permeability of coal is the key parameter both in primary and enhanced coalbed methane recovery. The natural cleat system in coal serves as the primary pathway for gas flow in coal seams though mineralisation in cleats and is known to significantly reduce coal permeability. This paper reports on a numerical simulation of the pore network evolution of coal subject to cleat demineralisation. A high-resolution micro-computed tomography scanner was used to characterize the micro-structures of three anthracite coal samples. The mineral phases available in the coal samples were selectively removed to different extents (20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100%) and merged into the pore space using image processing techniques. In this way, the coal demineralisation process could be simulated and its impact on porosity and permeability studied. Comprehensive pore structure characterizations, including porosity, connectivity and tortuosity, were then conducted on the reconstructed pore network using Avizo software. Pore network models were also extracted to investigate changes in the pore and throat attributes. The lattice Boltzmann method was adopted to identify the absolute permeability changes with cleat demineralisation. The results reveal that demineralisation can increase coal porosity and permeability up to a percolation threshold. Although porosity was enhanced prior to the percolation threshold, the coal permeability was not enhanced due to poor pore connectivity. The permeability changed rapidly close to the percolation threshold, depending on the degree of demineralisation, and an exponential relation was observed between permeability and the amount of demineralisation. According to the observations, complete removal of the mineral phase can significantly increase the connected porosity while reducing the pore tortuosity, resulting in several orders of magnitude increase in coal permeability. This study shows that cleat demineralisation is an effective permeability enhancement technique for coalbed methane recovery, if very high demineralisation can be achieved.
- Lattice Boltzmann method
- Pore network model