Trapped gas saturation (Sgr) plays an important role in subsurface engineering, such as carbon capture and storage, H2 storage efficiency as well as the production of natural gas. Unfortunately, Sgr is notoriously difficult to measure in the laboratory or field. The conventional method of measurement—low-rate unsteady-state coreflooding—is often impacted by gas dissolution effects, resulting in large uncertainties of the measured Sgr. Moreover, it is not understood why this effect occurs, even for brines carefully pre-equilibrated with gas. To address this question, we used high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (micro-CT) imaging techniques to directly visualize the pore-scale processes during gas trapping. Consistent with previous studies, we find that for pre-equilibrated brine, the remaining gas saturation continually decreased with more (pre-equilibrated) brine injected and even after the brine injection was stopped, resulting in very low Sgr values (possibly even zero) at the pore-scale level. Furthermore, we were able to clearly observe the initial trapping of gas by the snap-off effect, followed by a further shrinkage of the gas clusters that had no connected pathway to the outside. Our experimental insights suggest that the effect is related to the effective phase behavior of gas inside the porous medium, which due to the geometric confinement, could be different from the phase behavior of bulk fluids. The underlying mechanism is likely linked to ripening dynamics, which involves a coupling between phase equilibrium and dissolution/partitioning of components, diffusive transport, and capillarity in the geometric confinement of the pore space.

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