Study in Progress

Statement of Task

Geological and geotechnical characterizing, modeling, and monitoring of the subsurface are integral to safe, economical, and responsible development, maintenance, operation, remediation, and decommissioning of infrastructure related to energy, water, waste, and transportation. Modeling and monitoring fluid travel paths and velocities through subsurface fractures and matrix are among the most significant engineering challenges associated with these tasks. An ad hoc committee of the National Research Council will conduct a study to address issues relevant to subsurface flow and contaminant transport in fractured media, including low permeability and low porosity media, as well as in deep (3 to 5 kilometers) fracture systems. Subsurface characterization, modeling, monitoring, and remediation (SCMMR) issues applicable throughout the lifecycle of engineered facilities that have the potential to release contaminants and pose risk to groundwater quality will be considered. As part of its information gathering, the committee will convene a workshop to examine the state-of-art and state-of-practice in

- Subsurface fracture and matrix characterization, especially relevant geotechnical, hydrological, and geochemical properties, and the development of conceptual models;
- Detection of fluid and contaminant pathways and travel times;
- Detection and modeling of factors that affect changes in geotechnical and hydrological properties over time (e.g., decades to millennium), including thermal, hydrological, chemical, and mechanical (THCM) processes;
- Groundwater and contaminant transport modeling, monitoring, and remediation, and how these can aid decision making during facility design, operation, remediation, and decommissioning;
- Early indicators (such as change in fracture properties, moisture levels, background chemistry) of system failures resulting in unintentional release of fluids; and
- Potential mitigation measures to eliminate or reduce adverse impacts of system failures and related releases to the environment.

SCMMR knowledge generated from energy industry practice as well as carbon sequestration investigations will be considered. The committee will issue a final report that will include findings and conclusions with respect to (i) where research and development could improve the current state-of-art in SCMMR, and (ii) where incorporation of scientific and technical advances could enhance the state-of-practice in SCMMR and (iii) where enhanced science-based understanding could inform federal regulations, policies, and implementing guidance.