Quantitative analysis of micro-structural changes in a bituminous coal after exposure to supercritical CO2 and water

Guanglei Zhang, P. G. Ranjith, M. S.A. Perera, Yiyu Lu, Xavier Choi

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High-volatile bituminous coal samples were reacted in deionized water with supercritical CO2 (ScCO2–water) under simulated in situ pressure and temperature conditions (8 MPa and 40 °C) in unconfined stress state for 14 days, in order to characterize potential CO2–water–coal reactions. Micro-structural changes were identified pre- and post-experiment using X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) analysis for powdered coal (mineralogical changes), optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) for polished thin sections (surface feature changes) and micro-CT scanning for a small core (porosity and permeability changes). XRD analysis revealed that carbonic acid leaches out mineral matters in coal, including carbonates (calcite) and silicate minerals (albite, illite and kaolinite). Optical microscopy, SEM and CT images confirmed that the interaction of coal with ScCO2–water causes an abundance of micro-cracks to open or propagate in unconfined coal samples. Most micro-cracks preferably propagated along maceral–mineral and maceral–maceral interfaces, which demonstrates that the micro-cracking was caused by differential swelling of different coal lithotypes. Wormhole formation was observed in coal caused by mineral dissolution and hydrocarbon mobilization, which significantly increases coal porosity compared with swelling-induced cracking. 3-D pore network models extracted from CT images show that ScCO2–water treatment enlarges the pore and throat size, increases the numbers of pores and throats and improves pore network connectivity. Overall, CO2–water–coal interactions under unconfined conditions enhance coal porosity, connectivity and permeability, which can be attributed to the combined effect of micro-cracking, mineral dissolution and hydrocarbon mobilization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639–1660
Number of pages22
JournalNatural Resources Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Connectivity
  • Micro-CT
  • Pore network model
  • Supercritical CO

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