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Title: Effects of increased upward flux of dissolved salts caused by CO2 storage or other factors

Injection of CO2 in deep saline aquifers is being considered to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and this process is expected to increase the pressure in these deep aquifers. One potential consequence of pressurization is an increase in the upward flux of saline water. Saline groundwater occurs naturally at shallow depths in many sedimentary basins, so an upward flux of solutes could degrade the quality of freshwater aquifers and threaten aquatic ecosystems. One problem could occur where saline water flowed upward along preferential paths, like faults or improperly abandoned wells. Diffuse upward flow through the natural stratigraphy could also occur in response to basin pressurization. This process would be slower, but diffuse upward flow could affect larger areas than flow through preferential paths, and this motivated us to evaluate this process. We analyzed idealized 2D and 3D geometries representing the essential details of a shallow, freshwater aquifer underlain by saline ground water in a sedimentary basin. The analysis was conducted in two stages, one that simulated the development of a freshwater aquifer by flushing out saline water, and another that simulated the effect of a pulse-like increase in the upward flux from the basin. The results showed that increasingmore » the upward flux from a basin increased the salt concentration and mass loading of salt to streams, and decrease the depth to the fresh/salt transition. The magnitude of these effects varied widely, however, from a small, slow process that would be challenging to detect, to a large, rapid response that could be an environmental catastrophe. The magnitude of the increased flux, and the initial depth to the fresh/salt transition in groundwater controlled the severity of the response. We identified risk categories for salt concentration, mass loading, and freshwater aquifer thickness, and we used these categories to characterize the severity of the response. This showed that risks would likely be minor if the upward flux was smaller than a few tenths of the magnitude of recharge, according to the 2D analyses. The 3D analyses also show that upward flux could occur without a significant increase in the risk categories. The major contribution of this work is that it shows how a large increase in diffuse upward flux from a basin could cause significant problems, but a small increase in upward flux may occur without significantly affecting risks to the shallow freshwater flow system. This heightens the importance of understanding interactions between shallow and deep hydrologic systems when characterizing CO2 storage projects.« less
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  1. Clemson Univ., SC (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0022-1694; AA7040000
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Journal of Hydrology; Journal Volume: 527; Journal Issue: C
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States