Study of natural CO2 reservoirs — mechanisms and pathways for leakage and implications for geologically stored CO2
Miocic, Johannes Marijan
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Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a suite of technologies available to directly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere from fossil fuelled power plants and large industrial point sources. For a safe deployment of CCS it is important that CO2 injected into deep geological formations does not migrate out of the storage site. Characterising and understanding possible migration mechanisms and pathways along which migration may occur is therefore crucial to ensure secure engineered storage of anthropogenic CO2. In this thesis naturally occurring CO2 accumulations in the subsurface are studied as analogue sites for engineered storage sites with respect to CO2 migration pathways and mechanisms that ensure the retention of CO2 in the subsurface. Geological data of natural CO2 reservoirs world-wide has been compiled from published literature and analysed. Results show that faults are the main pathways for migration of CO2 from subsurface reservoirs to the surface and that the state and density of CO2, pressure of the reservoir, and thickness of the caprock influence the successful retention of CO2. Gaseous, low density CO2, overpressured reservoirs, and thin caprocks are characteristics of insecure storage sites. Two natural CO2 reservoirs have been studied in detail with respect to their fault seal properties. This includes the first study of how fault rock seals behave in CO2 reservoirs. It has been shown that the bounding fault of the Fizzy Field reservoir in the southern North Sea can with hold the amount of CO2 trapped in the reservoir at current time. A initially higher gas column would have led to across fault migration of CO2 as the fault rock seals would not have been able to withhold higher pressures. Depending on the present day stress regime the fault could be close to failure. At the natural CO2 reservoir of St. Johns Dome, Arizona, migration of CO2 to the surface has been occurring for at least the last 500 ka. Fault seal analysis shows that this migration is related to the fault rock composition and the orientation of the bounding fault in the present day stress field. Using the U-Th disequilibrium method the ages of travertine deposits of the St. Johns Dome area have been determined. The results illustrate that along one fault CO2 migration took place for at least 480 ka and that individual travertine mounds have had long lifespans of up to ~350 ka. Age and uranium isotope trends along the fault have been interpreted as signs of a shrinking CO2 reservoir. The amount of CO2 calculated to have migrated out of the St. Johns Dome is up to 113 Gt. Calculated rates span from 5 t/yr to 30,000 t/yr and indicate that at the worst case large amounts of CO2 can migrate rapidly from the subsurface reservoir along faults to the surface. This thesis highlights the importance of faults as fluid pathways for vertical migration of CO2. It has been also shown that they can act as baffles for CO2 migration and that whether a fault acts as pathway or baffle for CO2 can be predicted using fault seal analysis. However, further work is needed in order to minimise the uncertainties of fault seal analysis for CO2 reservoirs.