Geochemistry
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Research

Current research projects

Cost-efficient water treatment in Egypt

The most significant challenges facing mankind today include global warming and population growth, which severely impact developing countries with arid desert climate, especially in terms of water resources. Egypt promotes the optimum use of available resources, notably by significant investment in the Golden Triangle Area, but freshwater supplies are insufficient to cope with the increased demand, and mining activities contaminate groundwater. Therefore, the maintenance and improvement of current standards of living and health depend on the development of new mechanisms that ensure sustainable access to safe drinking water. To address this challenge, the project aims to develop new technologies using locally abundant resources for water treatment. The project takes a multidisciplinary approach to achieve successful proof-of-concept data for the use and modification of local raw material in a new filtration system and in the synthesis of a novel adsorbent composite for removal of identified groundwater contaminants.

This research is a collaboration with Dr. Rachel Gomes (Engineering, UoN) and Dr. Abdel Mawgoud Mohammed (South Valley University, Egypt) and is supported by an EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship Award (2017-2018), as well as a Newton-Mosharafa General Mission PhD studentship awarded to Mr. Tharwat Hassan.

Fluid-rock interaction in geothermal systems

Due to the threatening impacts of global warming, we need to transition our energy portfolio towards low carbon, renewable energy. Heat from warm rocks underground, so-called geothermal energy, offers a promising and renewable energy source. The frontier research in this field explores the potential of magma energy, this is extracting heat from the warmest possible source that is accessible on Earth namely magma or molten rock. However, there are still many uncertainties in magma energy exploration and production, in particular chemical challenges involving release of toxic gases, heavy metals and corrosive fluids.

Environmental risks of gas storage in salt rocks

Underground storage of gas is an effective means to mitigate CO2 emissions. Moreover, storing hydrogen or methane gas underground is very useful to provide grid energy storage for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. Although salt rock has proven to be a very effective seal for trapped hydrocarbons over long time scale, human activities of fast injection and extraction are very different to natural systems. Therefore, the impact of pressure cycling on potential leakage patways in salt which could cause significant environmental risks need to be better understood.

This research is a collaboration with Prof. Chris Jackson (Imperial College London), Dr. Enrique Gomez-Rivas (University of Aberdeen), Dr. Alec Marshall (Engineering), and Dr. David Evans (BGS), and is supported by a Royal Society Research Grant (2017-2018).

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Nanoscale characteristics of fault healing processes and link with fault slip behaviour

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The nature of fault deformation characteristics is dependent on temperature, and temperature plays an important role in the type and rate of chemical reactions that take place. A study of the nanoscale features of deformation zones helps identifying the fundamental processes that control macro-scale fault slip behaviour.

This research is a collaboration with Prof. Yongsheng Zhou (China Earthquake Administration) and Ms. Helen Lacey (Imperial College London), and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Partnered Access Fund (2016-2017).

 

Mobilization of elements during shale-water contact

Shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs, but there are associated environmental concerns. Safe and environmentally sound exploration therefore needs to be ensured. Extraction of gas and oil from shale rock formations is done by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting water (with chemical additives and sand) at high pressure. A better understanding of shale-bound element mobilization will facilitate wastewater management associated with hydraulic fracturing practices. Moreover, a better insight in element mobilization mechanisms has implications for paleoclimate reconstruction. 

Two MSci research projects are funded by a Water Science bursary from the Royal Society of Chemistry (2016-2017).

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Synthesis of dolomite at room temperature: overcoming kinetic inhibition

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The formation of dolomite, of importance both in science and industry, since 50% of the world's carbonate hydrocarbon reservoirs are dolomite reservoirs, remains an enigma. The so-called "dolomite problem" relates to the fact that dolomite is common in ancient rocks (in particular Precambrian rocks), but is rare in modern sediments, although seawater is thermodynamically oversaturated with respect to dolomite, and the failure to synthesize ordered dolomite in the lab under ambient conditions due to kinetic inhibition. This project focuses on dolomite synthesis experiments involving cyclic changes. 

A summer studentship for this research is sponsored by BP (2016).

 

 

Completed research projects

Uncertainty and material failure

Complex subsurface systems are a key component in activities that tackle current societal challenges linked to climate change, energy and water. Data on these systems are scarce, and hence, lead to great uncertainty ranging from material properties to the underlying physics. The aim of this research is to generate a fundamental understanding of breaking of chemical bonds triggered by the interplay of stress by mechanical loading and chemical reaction. This project correlates experiments with numerical models in subsurface mechanical-chemical interactions. 

This research is a collaboration with Dr. Donald Brown (Mathematics) and is sponsored by the Modelling an Uncertain World RPA Collaborative Kickstarter Fund from the University of Nottingham (2016).

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Dolomite geobodies in the Picos de Europa (northern Spain)

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Dolomitization (replacement of limestone by dolomite) is a common diagenetic process in carbonate rocks. The presence of dolomite bodies in limestone host rock causes heterogeneity, since dolomite generally has different petrophysical characteristics than limestone. Whereas early diagenetic dolomite bodies are expected to be closely associated to the sedimentary framework, late diagenetic dolomite bodies (formed at higher temperature) are more challenging to predict. The latter are controlled by both the fracture network and lithology, and the extent of dolomitization is hard to constrain. Late diagenetic dolomitiation is not uncommonly associated with Mississippi Valley type lead-zinc ore deposits, which is also the case for the dolomite in the Picos de Europa.

This research is in collaboration with Dr. Gary Hampson (Imperial College London), Dr. Adam Booth (University of Leeds) and Dr. Jonathan Naden (BGS). It is part of the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre, funded by Qatar Petroleum, Shell and the Qatar Science and Technology Park (2012-2018).

 

Multidisciplinary study of the interplay between earthquake-triggered fluid migration and fault healing processes

Earthquakes can cause major catastrophes with large numbers of casualties. More accurate prediction of those events by a better understanding of the underlying fundamental processes could save lives. Fluids play an essential role in earthquake-related processes, since pressurized fluids can trigger movement along the fault, and conversely, fluids are the source for mineral formation which may result in a very tight fault zone preventing migration of fluids until the next rupture. The study bridges the gap between research using field observations and microscopic and chemical analysis of natural fault zones, and laboratory rock mechanical experiments. The results of this study will further our understanding of fundamental fracturing and fluid migration processes linked to earthquakes occurring worldwide.

This research is in collaboration with Prof. John Cosgrove (Imperial College London) and Dr. Phil Benson (University of Portsmouth) and is sponsored by the GDL Foundation.

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Fracture related dolomite formation in the Central Oman Mountains

Late diagenetic dolomite is commonly formed along faults and fractures. The latter structures may represent geohazards for hydrocarbon drilling operations due to extreme permeability contrasts which lead to abrupt loss of drilling fluids resulting in the drill bit getting stuck and forced abandonment of the well. Predicting the location of those highly permeable zones is challenging since they are subseismic in scale. The project investigates outcrop analogues to achieve a better insight in the dolomite distribution and dimension associated with such fault and fracture network to deliver better solutions for exploitation activities.

This research is in collaboration with Dr. Cedric John (Imperial College London) and is part of the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre, funded by Qatar Petroleum, Shell and the Qatar Science and Technology Park (2012-2016).

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Geochemistry

The University of Nottingham
School of Chemistry
Nottingham, NG7 2RD


telephone: +44 (0) 115 748 4140
email:veerle.vandeginste@nottingham.ac.uk