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Title: Utilizing rare earth elements as tracers in high TDS reservoir brines in CCS applications

In this paper we report the result of research associated with the testing of a procedures necessary for utilizing natural occurring trace elements, specifically the Rare Earth Elements (REE) as geochemical tracers in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) applications. Trace elements, particularly REE may be well suited to serve as in situ tracers for monitoring geochemical conditions and the migration of CO₂-charged waters within CCS storage systems. We have been conducting studies to determine the efficacy of using REE as a tracer and characterization tool in the laboratory, at a CCS analogue site in Soda Springs, Idaho, and at a proposed CCS reservoir at the Rock Springs Uplift, Wyoming. Results from field and laboratory studies have been encouraging and show that REE may be an effective tracer in CCS systems and overlying aquifers. In recent years, a series of studies using REE as a natural groundwater tracer have been conducted successfully at various locations around the globe. Additionally, REE and other trace elements have been successfully used as in situ tracers to describe the evolution of deep sedimentary Basins. Our goal has been to establish naturally occurring REE as a useful monitoring measuring and verification (MMV) tool in CCS researchmore » because formation brine chemistry will be particularly sensitive to changes in local equilibrium caused by the addition of large volumes of CO₂. Because brine within CCS target formations will have been in chemical equilibrium with the host rocks for millions of years, the addition of large volumes of CO₂ will cause reactions in the formation that will drive changes to the brine chemistry due to the pH change caused by the formation of carbonic acid. This CO₂ driven change in formation fluid chemistry will have a major impact on water rock reaction equilibrium in the formation, which will impart a change in the REE fingerprint of the brine that can measured and be used to monitor in situ reservoir conditions. Our research has shown that the REE signature imparted to the formation fluid by the introduction of CO₂ to the formation, can be measured and tracked as part of an MMV program. Additionally, this REE fingerprint may serve as an ideal tracer for fluid migration, both within the CCS target formation, and should formation fluids migrate into overlying aquifers. However application of REE and other trace elements to CCS system is complicated by the high salt content of the brines contained within the target formations. In the United States by regulation, in order for a geologic reservoir to be considered suitable for carbon storage, it must contain formation brine with total dissolved solids (TDS) > 10,000 ppm, and in most cases formation brines have TDS well in excess of that threshold. The high salinity of these brines creates analytical problems for elemental analysis, including element interference with trace metals in Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) (i.e. element mass overlap due to oxide or plasma phenomenon). Additionally, instruments like the ICP-MS that are sensitive enough to measure trace elements down to the parts per trillion level are quickly oversaturated when water TDS exceeds much more than 1,000 ppm. Normally this problem is dealt with through dilution of the sample, bringing the water chemistry into the instruments working range. However, dilution is not an option when analyzing these formation brines for trace metals, because trace elements, specifically the REE, which occur in aqueous solutions at the parts per trillion levels. Any dilution of the sample would make REE detection impossible. Therefore, the ability to use trace metals as in situ natural tracers in high TDS brines environments requires the development of methods for pre-concentrating trace elements, while reducing the salinity and associated elemental interference such that the brines can be routinely analyzed by standard ICP-MS methods. As part of the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Project the INL-CAES has developed a rapid, easy to use process that pre-concentrates trace metals, including REE, up to 100x while eliminating interfering ions (e.g. Ba, Cl). The process is straightforward, inexpensive, and requires little infrastructure, using only a single chromatography column with inexpensive, reusable, commercially available resins and wash chemicals. The procedure has been tested with synthetic brines (215,000 ppm or less TDS) and field water samples (up to 5,000 ppm TDS). Testing has produced data of high quality with REE capture efficiency exceeding 95%, while reducing interfering elements by > 99%.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [2]
  1. Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States); Center for Advanced Energy Studies, Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
  2. Center for Advanced Energy Studies, Idaho Falls, ID (United States); Univ. of Idaho, Moscow, ID (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Energy Procedia
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 63; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 1876-6102
Research Org:
Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States