Investigation of CO₂ seeps at the crystal geyser site using numerical modeling with geochemistry



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Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) sequestration requires that the injected CO₂ be permanently trapped in the subsurface and not leak from the target location. To accomplish this, it is important to understand the main mechanisms associated with CO₂ flow and transport in the subsurface once CO₂ is injected. In this work CO₂ seeps at the Crystal Geyser site were studied using modeling and simulation to determine how CO₂ geochemically reacts with formation brines and how these interactions impact the migration of CO₂. Furthermore different scenarios for CO₂ migration and seepage along the Grand Wash fault are studied and the possible outcomes for these different scenarios are documented. The GEM (Generalized Equation-of-State Model) from CMG Ltd. was used to perform the simulation studies. A 2-D model was built without geochemical reactions to mainly study the mechanism associated with dissolution of CO₂ gas. The process of CO₂ release from the brine as the fluid mixture flows up along the fault was modeled. Then, 3-D models with geochemical reactions were built for CO₂ migration corresponding to two different sources of CO₂ - deep crustal ₂ and CO₂-dissolved in groundwater. In both these cases, CO₂ reacted with the aqueous components and minerals of the formation and caused carbonate mineralization. In the case of deep crustal CO₂ source, there were vertical patterns of calcite mineralization simulated along the fault that indicated that calcite mineralization might be localized to isolated vertical flow paths due to vertical channeling of CO₂ from the crust. In the case of CO₂-dissolved groundwater flowing along the sandstone layers, calcite mineralization is spread over the entire fault surface. In this case, the groundwater flow is interrupted by the fault and there is vertical flow along the fault until a permeable sandstone layer is encountered on the other side of the fault. This vertical migration of CO₂-saturated brine causes a release in pressure and subsequent ex-solution of CO₂. As a result, modeling allowed us to establish difference in surface expression of CO₂ leakage due to two different CO₂ migrations scenarios along the fault and helped develop a scheme for selecting appropriate model for CO₂ leakage based on surface observation of travertine mounds. A key observation at the Crystal Geyser site is the lateral migration of CO₂ seep sites over time. These migrations have been confirmed by isotope studies. In this modeling study, the mechanism for migration of seep sites was studied. A model for permeability reduction due to precipitation of calcite was developed. It is shown using percolation calculations that flow re-routing due to permeability alterations can result in lateral migration of CO₂ seeps at rates comparable to those established by isotope dating.