Risk of Leakage versus Depth of Injection in Geological Storage
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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One of the outstanding challenges for large-scale CCS operations is to develop reliable quantitative risk assessments with a focus on leakage of both injected CO2 and displaced brine. A critical leakage pathway is associated with the century-long legacy of oil and gas exploration and production, which has led to many millions of wells being drilled. Many of those wells are in locations that would otherwise be excellent candidates for CCS operations, especially across many parts of North America. Quantitative analysis of the problem requires special computational techniques because of the unique challenges associated with simulation of injection and leakage in systems that include hundreds or thousands of existing wells over domains characterized by layered structures in the vertical direction and very large horizontal extent. An important feature of these kinds of systems is the depth of each well, and the fact that the number of wells penetrating different formations decreases as a function of depth. As such, one might reasonably expect the risk of leakage to decrease with depth of injection. With the special computational models developed to simulate injection and leakage along multiple wells, in layered systems with multiple formations, quantitative assessment of risk reduction as a function of injection depth can be made. An example of such a system corresponds to the Wabamun Lake area southwest of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where several large coal-fired power plants are located. Use of information about both the existing wells and the local stratigraphy allows a realistic model to be constructed. Leakage along existing wells is assumed to follow Darcy’s Law, and is characterized by a set of effective permeability values. These values are assigned stochastically, using several different methods, within a Monte Carlo simulation framework. Computational results show the clear trade-off between depth of injection and risk of leakage. The results also show how properties within the different formations affect the risk profiles. In the Wabamun Lake area, one of the formations has the highest injectivity, by far, while having a moderate number of existing wells. Its moderate risk of leakage, as compared to injections in formations above and below, shows some of the key factors that are likely to influence injection design for large-scale CCS operations.