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P and S wave responses of bacterial biopolymer formation in unconsolidated porous media

  • Author(s): Noh, DH
  • Ajo-Franklin, JB
  • Kwon, TH
  • Muhunthan, B
  • et al.

Published Web Location

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015JG003118
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Abstract

This study investigated the P and S wave responses and permeability reduction during bacterial biopolymer formation in unconsolidated porous media. Column experiments with fine sands, where the model bacteria Leuconostoc mesenteroides were stimulated to produce insoluble biopolymer, were conducted while monitoring changes in permeability and P and S wave responses. The bacterial biopolymer reduced the permeability by more than 1 order of magnitude, occupying ~10% pore volume after 38 days of growth. This substantial reduction was attributed to the bacterial biopolymer with complex internal structures accumulated at pore throats. S wave velocity (VS) increased by more than ~50% during biopolymer accumulation; this indicated that the bacterial biopolymer caused a certain level of stiffening effect on shear modulus of the unconsolidated sediment matrix at low confining stress conditions. Whereas replacing pore water by insoluble biopolymer was observed to cause minimal changes in P wave velocity (VP) due to the low elastic moduli of insoluble biopolymer. The spectral ratio analyses revealed that the biopolymer formation caused a ~50-80% increase in P wave attenuation (1/QP) at the both ultrasonic and subultrasonic frequency ranges, at hundreds of kHz and tens of kHz, respectively, and a ~50-60% increase in S wave attenuation (1/QS) in the frequency band of several kHz. Our results reveal that in situ biopolymer formation and the resulting permeability reduction can be effectively monitored by using P and S wave attenuation in the ultrasonic and subultrasonic frequency ranges. This suggests that field monitoring using seismic logging techniques, including time-lapse dipole sonic logging, may be possible.

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