ESR3 – Caspar Sinn

Preparing salt samples for long-term creep tests in the Altaussee salt mine in Austria (October 2017)

Nationality: German

Creep host institution: Rock Deformation Group, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Background: After completing my Bachelor in Georesources Management, I continued with the Master’s programme in Applied Geosciences at the RWTH in Aachen (DE). By studying the specialization Energy and Mineral Resources, I could follow my ambition to work on different projects related to geology and exploration. Before my graduation, I went to the VU University Amsterdam (NL) for an ERASMUS exchange programme, followed by a stay in Prague (CZ) to compete in a global geoscience contest known as the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award Program.
In my Master Thesis project, I worked on microstructural, mineralogical, and petrophysical properties of heterogenous shale samples and modelled fluid flow based on BIB-SEM data (Sinn et al. 2017, Geofluids, doi:10.1155/2017/4709064).

Research interest: During my studies, at the RWTH Aachen (DE) as well as abroad, I developed a passion for the geoscientific investigation of materials that cannot be perceived by the naked eye.
I care about the dynamism between Man and Nature in the field of Earth Sciences. Through my work, I aim to be a part of solutions for energy & environmental-related issues, such as a sustainable production of natural resources. My areas of expertise cover the studies of geomaterials and their microphysical, microstructural, or thermodynamic properties through rock deformation and fluid transport experiments.

CREEP project: In my PhD project, I study the rheology of (rock)salt under natural conditions and how plastic deformation mechanisms (i.e. creep) affect its properties. The aim is to develop quantitative, mechanism-based models describing this rheological behaviour, the transport properties, and containment capacity of rocksalt in the regime where fluid-assisted microcracking and crack healing/sealing compete, and where pressure solution and sintering (neck growth) effects counteract frictional granular flow. My approaches involve experimental deformation, permeametry and electrical conductivity work, as well as comparison of the data produced with microphysical theory.
My results will be directly relevant for

  1. predicting the stability and containment capacity of solution-mined caverns in rocksalt that bear a potential for prospective energy storage purposes;
  2. providing practical insights into plastically healing/sealing mechanisms of rocksalt after well abandonment and into flow properties of granular salt products;
  3. determining how the injection of anti-caking chemical additives and/or thermal stimulation can enhance wellbore sealing in salt; as well as
  4. the behaviour of crustal rock and fault systems under hydro- and geothermal conditions.

In the course of my four-year project at the High Pressure and Temperature (HPT) laboratory, a research visit to the University College London (UK) and a 3-6 months internship at AkzoNobel’s Crystallization and Salt Laboratory in Deventer (NL) are planned.

Supervisors: Christopher Spiers1, Suzanne Hangx1, Colin Peach1 & Nicolas Brantut2

1 Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University (UU), The Netherlands
2 Department of Earth Sciences, University College London (UCL), United Kingdom

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