Molecular Simulation of Carbon Dioxide, Brine, and Clay Mineral Interactions and Determination of Contact Angles

CM Tenney and RT Cygan, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, 48, 2035-2042 (2014).

DOI: 10.1021/es404075k

Capture and subsequent geologic storage of CO2 in deep brine reservoirs plays a significant role in plans to reduce atmospheric carbon emission and resulting global climate change. The interaction of CO2 and brine species with mineral surfaces controls the ultimate fate of injected CO2 at the nanoscale via geochemistry, at the pore-scale via capillary trapping, and at the field-scale via relative permeability. We used large-scale molecular dynamics simulations to study the behavior of supercritical CO2 and aqueous fluids on both the hydrophilic and hydrophobic basal surfaces of kaolinite, a common clay mineral. In the presence of a bulk aqueous phase, supercritical CO2 forms a nonwetting droplet above the hydrophilic surface of kaolinite. This CO2 droplet is separated from the mineral surface by distinct layers of water, which prevent the CO2 droplet from interacting directly with the mineral surface. Conversely, both CO2 and H2O molecules interact directly with the hydrophobic surface of kaolinite. In the presence of bulk supercritical CO2, nonwetting aqueous droplets interact with the hydrophobic surface of kaolinite via a mixture of adsorbed CO2 and H2O molecules. Because nucleation and precipitation of minerals should depend strongly on the local distribution of CO2, H2O, and ion species, these nanoscale surface interactions are expected to influence long-term mineralization of injected carbon dioxide.

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