SEM image of sandstone grains
Electron micrograph of a gas-bearing sandstone from the Groningen Gas Field. The natural gas is trapped in the pores, indicated by the darker parts of the image. Image taken by Dr. Bart Verberne.

Safe and sustainable subsurface usage

Human activities in the subsurface perturb the natural physical and chemical equilibrium of the system. However, with energy demands soaring and the impact of CO2 emissions on climate increasing, the subsurface is progressively being targeted.

Geo-energy production and geological storage

 We are already extracting geothermal energy for the heating of buildings. With renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, expected to (largely) replace fossil fuel energy generation, temporary storage of renewable energy is required to overcome the intermittent nature of these energy sources. Storage of renewably generated electricity can be in the form of hydrogen fuel or compressed air, injected into salt caverns or depleted oil/gas reservoirs. To further decrease anthropogenic CO2 emissions, long-term geological storage of CO2, in depleted oil/gas reservoirs, deep saline aquifers or even coal beds, is required. Furthermore, though nuclear energy provides carbon-free energy, safe, long-term storage of radioactive waste will be needed.

Applied rock mechanics

The Experimental Rock Deformation Group applies its expertise to address the mechanical and chemical response of upper crustal rock systems to such production, injection and storage of energy carriers and waste. By understanding, through experimentation and microstructural analysis, what grain-scale mechanisms are activated during subsurface activities, and describing them through constitutive relationships, we provide the basis to assess the safety and impact of these activities.