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Lattice Boltzmann methods applied to large-scale three-dimensional virtual cores constructed from digital optical borehole images of the karst carbonate Biscayne aquifer in southeastern Florida

November 1, 2014

Digital optical borehole images at approximately 2 mm vertical resolution and borehole caliper data were used to create three-dimensional renderings of the distribution of (1) matrix porosity and (2) vuggy megaporosity for the karst carbonate Biscayne aquifer in southeastern Florida. The renderings based on the borehole data were used as input into Lattice Boltzmann methods to obtain intrinsic permeability estimates for this extremely transmissive aquifer, where traditional aquifer test methods may fail due to very small drawdowns and non-Darcian flow that can reduce apparent hydraulic conductivity. Variogram analysis of the borehole data suggests a nearly isotropic rock structure at lag lengths up to the nominal borehole diameter. A strong correlation between the diameter of the borehole and the presence of vuggy megaporosity in the data set led to a bias in the variogram where the computed horizontal spatial autocorrelation is strong at lag distances greater than the nominal borehole size. Lattice Boltzmann simulation of flow across a 0.4 × 0.4 × 17 m (2.72 m3 volume) parallel-walled column of rendered matrix and vuggy megaporosity indicates a high hydraulic conductivity of 53 m s−1. This value is similar to previous Lattice Boltzmann calculations of hydraulic conductivity in smaller limestone samples of the Biscayne aquifer. The development of simulation methods that reproduce dual-porosity systems with higher resolution and fidelity and that consider flow through horizontally longer renderings could provide improved estimates of the hydraulic conductivity and help to address questions about the importance of scale.