Ph.D. Research Project Title: Modelling fluid flow and water-rock interaction in fractured crust using a Discrete Fracture Network approach.
Research focus of H2020 FP FluidNet
Groundwater accounts for around 25% of the world’s fresh water supply. Due to the increasing anthropogenic pressure on shallow aquifers as well as climate change that is impacting global groundwater recharge, there is an increasing need to access deeper groundwater resources, which are typically hosted in fractured rock formations. The circulation of groundwater (and fluids, in general) in fractured rock is complex since mass-transfer with the low-permeability matrix bordering fractures might concentrate dissolved solute species, enhancing chemical reactions and, in some case, leading to fracture sealing due to mineral precipitation. In addition, through impact on porosity and permeability, mineral-water interaction processes alter groundwater flow patterns thus affecting the fate and transport of dissolved solutes. The transported elements may eventually concentrate in economically important reserves. A thorough understanding of the coupled hydro-chemical processing (HC) that occur in fractured media is important for applications such as the sustainable exploitation of the afore-mentioned reserves, the protection and remediations of aquifers used for drinking water production or the safety analyses of deep geological repositories for spent nuclear fuel. This objective is in line with the overall scientific aim of FluidNET: to contribute to the underpinning data, development and testing of new nano- to crustal-scale models of crustal fluid flux by constraining the time and length scales, mechanisms and provenance of crustal fluid fluxes at different crustal levels. To significantly advance research on fluid fluxes, and thus impact society and in particular industry, a new generation of skilled personnel is required, who can work with such complex systems, and make interpretations and predictions based on large and incomplete datasets. FluidNET will provide a stimulating cross-disciplinary environment for the training of a cohort of early-stage researchers, ESRs, in skills that are essential across the resources sector. Our training programme will challenge the ESRs with societally relevant questions and will encourage them to ‘think outside the box’. They will learn to apply field observations, innovative analytical techniques and creative modelling approaches; to communicate effectively with a broad range of audiences; and to engage effectively with end-users of their research. Such skills will meet future employment demand and will enhance Europe’s capacity to provide innovative solutions to critical resource requirements.
Research objectives of ESR 11 in FluidNet
In fractured rocks, groundwater flow takes place along preferential flow pathways (flowing fractures) and the interaction with the host rock (i.e., minerals present in form of fracture filling or in the rock matrix) changes hydro-geochemical conditions. These processes, which include reactions such as mineral dissolution and precipitation, trace element sorption and exchange and microbial metabolism, have the potential to alter groundwater flow patterns. Thus, there is an evident feedback between reactive transport and the underlying distribution of fracture openings.
Deep fractured formations are important for a broad range of applications including energy storage (e.g., H2), the disposal of hazardous wastes (e.g., nuclear spent fuel) as well as the production of drinking water in dry areas. It turns out that the prediction of the interaction between host rock formations and inflowing fluids becomes critical for their proper management. Therefore, the understanding and modelling of fluid-fracture interaction is of high scientific and commercial interest. However, due to the high computational requirements of the underlying calculations, reactive transport models in fractured networks are still at an incipient stage.
In this ESR project within Fluid-Net, the assessment of fracture evolution due to geochemical reactions to the scale of multiple fractures will be expanded and improved through a Discrete Fracture Network representation using High Performance Computing technologies and an available open-source DFN simulator (dfnWorks, Figure 1). The results of the study are expected to be of interests for applications such as the safety assessment of deep geological spent nuclear fuel repositories or for the design of optimal remediation strategies. The main objectives to be addressed are: (1) study how fracture granitic rocks are affected by water-rock interaction, (2) understand how mineral dissolution/precipitation processes impact hydrological patterns at large scale (i.e., the scale of interest for a safety assessment study for deep geological disposal of nuclear waste), (3) understand how fracture evolution, due to water-rock interaction, affects the potential of the rock to retain harmful radionuclides potentially released due repository failure.
AMPHOS21 Consulting S.L. is a SME that provides scientific and technical consultancy services addressing a range of environmental issues, mainly associated with the management and disposal of hazardous wastes, contaminated groundwater and soils as well as environmental planning and management. The main output is the expert advice to national geological agencies and regulators, along with industrial innovation. Amphos21 counts on a team of more than 40 highly qualified professional specialized in scientific and technical disciplines related to geosciences. Amphos21 has been involved in more than 25 EC-funded projects from the 4th Framework Programme, playing both scientific and managing role.
This PhD. Project will be performed under the supervision of Dr. Fidel Grandia, Project Director and Leader of the Geochemistry Group in Amphos 21 Consulting, and Dr. Paolo Trinchero, Project Director and Leader of the FROCK Group in Amphos 21 Consulting.
PhD enrolment and secondments
The PhD project will be based in the Amphos21 offices in Barcelona; however, since Amphos21 is a non-degree awarding PhD institution, the ESR will be enrolled as a PhD student at the Vrije Universiteit-Amsterdam. The ESR will also follow a training program that will include mandatory secondments at (1) IFTEC/4D Geo (Month 6-7 after contract signature) to link geochemical to structural modelling, (2) RWTH Aachen (Month 15-16) to learn methods of direct radiogenic dating for granite-related rocks. Finally, short laboratory visits will be paid to Dr M-L Frezzotti, (UniMIB), to learn how to identify and characterise fluid inclusions in a variety of different minerals (Month 14).
The PhD student will be also involved in scientific/soft-skills meetings and in research activities conducted in the frame of the FluidNet project.
- 3-years full-time employment contract.
- Attractive salary tuned to living standards of the hosting country.
- Based in a leading SME in I+R in Applied Geosciences in Europe, with expert staffs in modelling and friendly working conditions.
- Possibility to collaborate with a large network of international research groups engaged in the ITN.
- The candidate should be in the first four years of their research career. They should not have a doctoral degree and fulfil the eligibility criteria and mobility rule (see below).
- The candidate should hold a bachelor in geology, engineering or environmental sciences, or related disciplines. Applicants must provide documentation of either a recently completed MSc degree or confirmation of completion of the MSc degree prior to starting the position (March 1st 2021).
- Ability on numerical modelling. Experience with geochemical modeling codes (PHREEQC, PFLOTRAN…) and with programming and scripting languages (e.g., Python, FORTRAN, C++) will be highly appreciated.
- Broad understanding of concepts and applications in environmental geochemistry.
- Advanced skills in the evaluation of hydrogeochemical systems (data analysis and visualization).
- Ability to work independently and as part of a team.
- Ability to synthesize complex technical and scientific information.
- Ability to work in a consulting environment, handling multiple project assignments with strict deadlines.
- Fluent written/verbal communication in English.
Recruiting is in accordance with the European rules for Marie Curie Initial Training Networks.
- Early-stage researchers (ESR) can be of any nationality. They must be, at the time of recruitment by the host organization, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. The research career starts after the degree that enables a student to proceed with a PhD (usually, the Master degree).
- Mobility rule: At the time of the recruitment by the first host institution, the ESRs must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their first host institution for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Short stays such as holidays and/or compulsory national service are not taken into account.
How to apply
Send your complete application before March 1st 2021 to both contacts below (application will remain open until position is filled).
A single pdf file needs to be submitted including:
a cover letter, stating your research motivation and interests; including relevant background and career plan (max 1 A4 page)
a Curriculum Vitae, including academic background, previous research and/or industrial experience (max 2 A4 pages)
Degree transcripts (with marks)
English language qualification certificates (or equivalent)
At least 2 confidential reference letters from academics (including name, position and email address of the referee) (max 1 A4 page, with substantiated assessment of the applicant’s technical skills, creativity, innovation ability, working capacity, efficiency and level of independence) must be sent directly to the contacts below.
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to participate in the kick-off workshop to be organized end of March 2021. Successful candidates for the PhD positions will be enrolled in the graduate programmes of FluidNET network partners’ universities. Admission and terms of employment are based on EU Horizon2020 guidelines and local policies of participating universities.
Fidel Grandia, PhD, Project Director,
Geochemistry / Waste Management Dept.
Human resources head: