Geologic CO₂ storage : understanding pressure perturbations and estimating risk due to pressure buildup



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When CO₂ is injected in deep saline aquifers on the scale of gigatonnes, pressure buildup in the aquifer during injection will be a critical issue. Because fracturing, fault activation and leakage of brine along pathways such as abandoned wells all require a threshold pressure (Nicot et al., 2009); operators and regulators will be concerned with the spatial extent of the pressure buildup. Thus a critical contour of overpressure is a convenient proxy for risk. The location of this contour varies depending on the target aquifer properties (porosity, permeability etc.), the geology (presence of faults, abandoned wells etc.), and boundary conditions. Importantly, the extent also depends on relative permeability (Burton et al., 2008). First we describe ways of quantifying the risk due to pressure buildup in an aquifer with a constant pressure boundary, using the three-region injection model to derive analytical expressions for a specific contour of overpressure at any given time. All else being the same, the two-phase-region mobilities (and hence relative permeability characteristics) provide a basis for the ranking of storage formations based on risk associated with pressure elevation during injection. The pressure buildup during CO₂ injection will depend strongly upon the boundary conditions at the boundary of the storage formation. An analytical model for pressure profile in the infinite-acting aquifer is developed by combining existing water influx models in traditional reservoir engineering (Van-Everdingen and Hurst model, Carter-Tracy model) to the current problem for describing brine efflux from the storage aquifer when CO₂ injection creates a "three-region" saturation distribution. We determine evolution of overpressure with time for constant pressure, no-flow and infinite-acting boundary conditions, and conclude that constant pressure and no-flow boundary conditions give the most optimistic and pessimistic estimates of risk respectively. Compositional reservoir simulation results, using CMG-GEM simulator are presented, to show the effect of an isolated no-flow boundary on pressure buildup and injectivity in saline aquifers. We investigate the effect of multiple injection wells on single-phase fluid flow on aquifer pressure buildup, and demonstrate the use of an equivalent injection well concept to approximate the aquifer pressure profile. We show a relatively inexpensive method of predicting the presence of unanticipated heterogeneities in the formation, by employing routine measurements such as injection rate and injection pressure to track deviation in the plume path. This idea is implemented by combining Pro-HMS (probabilistic history matching software, that carries out geologically consistent parameter estimation), and a CMG-GEM model which has been tuned to the physics of the CO₂-brine system.