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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mixing and trapping of dissolved CO2 in deep geologic formations with shale layers

  • Author(s): Agartan, E
  • Cihan, A
  • Illangasekare, TH
  • Zhou, Q
  • Birkholzer, JT
  • et al.

© 2017 Elsevier Ltd For dissolution trapping, the spatial variability of the geologic properties of naturally complex storage formations can significantly impact flow patterns and storage mechanisms of dissolved CO2. The significance of diffusive mixing that occurs in low permeability layers embedded between relatively higher permeability materials was highlighted by Agartan et al. (2015) using a highly controlled laboratory experimental study on trapping of dissolved CO2 in multilayered systems. In this paper, we present a numerical modeling study on the impacts of low permeability layers on flow and storage of dissolved CO2 in realistic field-scale settings. The simulator of variable-density flow used in this study was first verified using the experimental data in Agartan et al. (2015) to capture the observed processes. The simulator was then applied to a synthetic, field-scale multilayered system, with 19 sensitivity cases having variable permeability and thickness of the shale layers as well as the source strength and geometry of the source zone of dissolved CO2. Simulation results showed that the presence of continuous shale layers in the storage system disrupts the convective mixing by enhancing lateral spreading of dissolved CO2 in sandstone layers and retarding the vertical mixing of dissolved CO2. The effectiveness of trapping of dissolved CO2 depends on the physical properties of the shale layers and configurations of the source zone. The comparison to homogeneous cases with effective vertical permeability shows that it is important to capture these continuous thin shale layers in a storage formation and include them in the models to enhance dissolution trapping.

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