Explicit tracking of CO2-flow at the core scale using micro-Positron Emission Tomography (μPET)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering. 2020, 77, 103268. 10.1016/j.jngse.2020.103268
Safe subsurface sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) is becoming increasingly important to meet climate goals and curb atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The world-wide CO2 storage capacity in carbonate formations is significant; within deep, saline aquifers and through several CO2-enhanced oil recovery projects, with associated CO2 storage. Carbonates are complex, both in terms of heterogeneity and reactivity, and improved core scale and sub core-scale analysis of CO2 flow phenomena is necessary input to simulators, aiming to establish large-scale behavior. This paper presents a recent advancement in in-situ imaging of CO2 flow, utilizing high-resolution micro-Positron Emission Tomography and radioactive tracer [11C]arbon dioxide to explicitly track CO2 during dynamic flow and subsequent trapping at the core scale. Unsteady state water injection (imbibition) and CO2 injection (drainage) were performed in a low-permeable chalk core at elevated pressure conditions. Short-lived radioisotopes were used to label water and CO2, respectively, and facilitated explicit tracking of each phase separately during single phase injection. Local flow patterns and dynamic spatial fluid saturations were determined from in-situ imaging during each experimental step. Initial miscible displacement revealed displacement heterogeneities in the chalk core, and dynamic image data was used to disclose and quantify local permeability variations. Radial permeability variations influenced subsequent flow patterns, where CO2 predominantly flooded the higher-permeability outer part of the core, leaving a higher water saturation in the inner core volume. Injection of water after CO2 flooding is proposed to be the most rapid and effective way to ensure safe storage, by promoting capillary trapping of CO2. PET imaging showed that presence of CO2 reduced the flow of water in higher-permeability areas, improving sweep efficiency and promoting a nearly ideal core-scale displacement. Alternate injections of water and gas is also expected to improve sweep efficiency and contribute to improved oil recovery and CO2 storage on larger scales. Sub-core analysis showed that residually trapped CO2 was evenly distributed in the chalk core, occupying 40% of the pore volume after ended water injection. Micro-Positron Emission Tomography yielded excellent small-scale resolution of both water and CO2 flow, and may contribute to unlocking fluid flow dynamics and determining mechanisms on the millimeter scale; presenting a unique opportunity in experimental core-scale evaluations of CO2 storage and security.