The matrix volume of coal swells when CO2 / CH4 adsorb on the coal structure. In coalbed gas reservoirs, matrix swelling could cause the fracture aperture width to decrease, causing a considerable reduction in permeability. On a unit concentration basis, CO2 causes greater degree of coal matrix swelling compared to CH4. Much of this difference is attributable to the differing sorption capacity that coal has towards carbon dioxide and methane. This condition in a coal reservoir would lead to differential swelling. Differential swelling will have consequences in terms of porosity / permeability loss, with serious implication for the performance and implementation of carbon sequestration projects.
Coal can be understood as a macromolecular cross-linked polymeric structure. An experimental effort has been made to measure the differential swelling effect of CO2 / CH4 on this macromolecular structure and to theoretically translate that effect in terms of porosity and permeability. A unique feature of this work is that, real time permeability measurements were done to see the true effect of differential strain from CH4 saturated coal core flooding experiments.