Rock fracture grouting with microbially induced carbonate precipitation

Minto, James M. and MacLachlan, Erica and El Mountassir, Grainne and Lunn, Rebecca J. (2016) Rock fracture grouting with microbially induced carbonate precipitation. Water Resources Research, 52 (11). pp. 8827-8844. ISSN 0043-1397 (

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Microbially induced carbonate precipitation has been proposed for soil stabilization, soil strengthening and permeability reduction as an alternative to traditional cement and chemical grouts. In this paper we evaluate the grouting of fine aperture rock fractures with calcium carbonate, precipitated through urea hydrolysis, by the bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii. Calcium carbonate was precipitated within a small-scale and a near field-scale (3.1 m2) artificial fracture consisting of a rough rock lower surfaces and clear polycarbonate upper surfaces. The spatial distribution of the calcium carbonate precipitation was imaged using time-lapse photography and the influence on flow pathways revealed from tracer transport imaging. In the large-scale experiment, hydraulic aperture was reduced from 276 μm to 22 μm, corresponding to a transmissivity reduction of 1.71x10-5 m2/s to 8.75x10-9 m2/s, over a period of 12 days under constantly flowing conditions. With a modified injection strategy a similar three orders of magnitude reduction in transmissivity was achieved over a period of three days. Calcium carbonate precipitated over the entire artificial fracture with strong adhesion to both upper and lower surfaces and precipitation was controlled to prevent clogging of the injection well by manipulating the injection fluid velocity. These experiments demonstrate that microbially induced carbonate precipitation can successfully be used to grout a fracture under constantly flowing conditions and may be a viable alternative to cement based grouts when a high level of hydraulic sealing is required and chemical grouts when a more durable grout is required.