Application of Vertically-Integrated Models with Subscale Vertical Dynamics to Field Sites for CO2 Sequestration
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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To address the engineering questions on security issues of geological carbon sequestration (GCS), a broad range of computational models with different levels of complexity have been developed - from multiphase multicomponent fully coupled three-dimensional models to simplified analytical solutions. Within this wide range of models, a family of so-called vertical equilibrium (VE) models has been developed. These models assume that CO2 and brine have segregated due to buoyancy and reached a hydrostatic pressure distribution in the vertical direction. Such VE models are computationally efficient due to the dimensional reduction in the vertical, and accurate as long as the VE assumption is satisfied. However, a study comparing results from a VE model to results from a full three- dimensional model found that there are realistic conditions for which the VE assumption is not justified, especially for geological formations that have low vertical permeability, on the order of 10 milliDarcy or lower . In an attempt to overcome the VE limitation of the vertically-integrated models, a new type of vertically-integrated model which relaxes the VE assumption while still using a vertically-integrated framework has been developed . The new vertically-integrated model is cast into a multiscale framework, where the coarse scale is the horizontal domain and the fine scale is the vertical domain corresponding to the thickness of a geologic formation. This type of model maintains much of the computational advantages of the VE models, while allowing a much wider range of problem to be modelled. In this paper, we extend the model in  to include horizontally layered geologic heterogeneities and develop a new dynamic reconstruction model, which we refer to as a “multi-layer dynamic reconstruction” model. The model in  is called “single-layer dynamic reconstruction” model to distinguish the modelling approaches. We apply both dynamic reconstruction models to field injection sites, including a hypothetical injection scenario into the Mount Simon formation in the Illinois Basin, USA and the well-known industrial-scale injection into the Utsira formation at the Sleipner site in Norway. The modelling results show that the multi-layer dynamic reconstruction model is capable of dealing with horizontally layered heterogeneities and gives results that agree reasonably well with results from the full multi-dimensional model, although in geologic layers with high permeability the reconstruction algorithm is not able to fully capture the horizontal driving forces due to buoyancy. This could be important over long time scales for highly permeable geologic layers. The single- layer dynamic reconstruction model was shown be to the right model choice for homogeneous formations with relatively low permeability where it takes a long time for CO2 and brine to reach vertical equilibrium . In this study, we found that for homogeneous formations with high permeability and steep capillary pressure curves, the single-layer dynamic reconstruction model gives results that are analogous to vertical equilibrium models, with the fast segregation dynamics requiring small time steps in the dynamic reconstruction algorithm. As such vertical equilibrium models are the appropriate choice for systems with high permeability, although we also note that the behaviour of the brine relative permeability curve at low brine saturations is an additional important consideration and must be included in the overall analysis.