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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Time-lapse gravity monitoring of CO2 migration based on numerical modeling of a faulted storage complex


In this study, the performance of both surface and borehole time-lapse gravity monitoring to detect CO2 leakage from a carbon storage site is evaluated. Several hypothetical scenarios of CO2 migration in a leaky fault, and thief zones at different depths at the Kimberlina site (California, USA) constitute the basis of the approach. The CO2 displacement is simulated using the TOUGH2 simulator applied to a detailed geological model of the site. The gravity responses to these CO2 plumes are simulated using forward modeling with sensors at ground surface and in vertical boreholes. Results of inversion on one scenario are also presented. The surface-based gravity responses obtained for the different leakage scenarios demonstrate that leakage can be detected at the surface in all the scenarios but the time to detection is highly variable (10–40 years) and dependent on the detection threshold considered. Borehole measurements of the vertical component of gravity provide excellent constraints in depth when they are located in proximity of the density anomaly associated with the presence of CO2, thus discriminating multiple leaks in different thief zones. Joint inversion of surface and borehole data can bring valuable information of the occurrence of leakages and their importance by providing a reasonable estimate of mass of displaced fluids. This study demonstrates the importance of combining multiphase flow simulations with gravity modeling in order to define if and when gravity monitoring would be applicable at a given storage site.

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