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Title: Influence of local capillary trapping on containment system effectiveness

Immobilization of CO2 injected into deep subsurface storage reservoirs is a critical component of risk assessment for geologic CO2 storage (GCS). Local capillary trapping (LCT) is a recently established mode of immobilization that arises when CO2 migrates due to buoyancy through heterogeneous storage reservoirs. This project sought to assess the amount and extent of LCT expected in storage formations under a range of injection conditions, and to confirm the persistence of LCT if the seal overlying the reservoir were to lose its integrity. Numerical simulation using commercial reservoir simulation software was conducted to assess the influence of injection. Laboratory experiments, modeling and numerical simulation were conducted to assess the effect of compromised seal integrity. Bench-scale (0.6 m by 0.6 m by 0.03 m) experiments with surrogate fluids provided the first empirical confirmation of the key concepts underlying LCT: accumulation of buoyant nonwetting phase at above residual saturations beneath capillary barriers in a variety of structures, which remains immobile under normal capillary pressure gradients. Immobilization of above-residual saturations is a critical distinction between LCT and the more familiar “residual saturation trapping.” To estimate the possible extent of LCT in a storage reservoir an algorithm was developed to identify all potential localmore » traps, given the spatial distribution of capillary entry pressure in the reservoir. The algorithm assumes that the driving force for CO2 migration can be represented as a single value of “critical capillary entry pressure” Pc,entrycrit, such that cells with capillary entry pressure greater/less than Pc,entrycrit act as barriers/potential traps during CO2 migration. At intermediate values of Pc,entrycrit, the barrier regions become more laterally extensive in the reservoir, approaching a percolation threshold while non-barrier regions remain numerous. The maximum possible extent of LCT thus occurs at Pc,entrycrit near this threshold. Testing predictions of this simple algorithm against full-physics simulations of buoyancy-driven CO2 migration support the concept of critical capillary entry pressure. However, further research is needed to determine whether a single value of critical capillary entry pressure always applies and how that value can be determined a priori. Simulations of injection into high-resolution (cells 0.3 m on a side) 2D and 3D heterogeneous domains show two characteristic behaviors. At small gravity numbers (vertical flow velocity much less than horizontal flow velocity) the CO2 fills local traps as well as regions that would act as local barriers if CO2 were moving only due to buoyancy. When injection ceases, the CO2 migrates vertically to establish large saturations within local traps and residual saturation elsewhere. At large gravity numbers, the CO2 invades a smaller portion of the perforated interval. Within this smaller swept zone the local barriers are not invaded, but local traps are filled to large saturation during injection and remain during post-injection gravity-driven migration. The small gravity number behavior is expected in the region within 100 m of a vertical injection well at anticipated rates of injection for commercial GCS. Simulations of leakage scenarios (through-going region of large permeability imposed in overlying seal) indicate that LCT persists (i.e. CO2 remains held in a large fraction of the local iv traps) and the persistence is independent of injection rate during storage. Simulations of leakage for the limiting case of CO2 migrating vertically from an areally extensive emplacement in the lower portion of a reservoir showed similar strong persistence of LCT. This research has two broad implications for GCS. The first is that LCT can retain a significant fraction of the CO2 stored in a reservoir – above and beyond the residual saturation -- if the overlying seal were to fail. Thus frameworks for risk assessment should be extended to account for LCT. The second implication is that compared to pressure driven flow in reservoirs, CO2 migration and trapping behave in a qualitatively different manner in heterogeneous reservoirs when buoyancy is the dominant driving force for flow. Thus simulations of GCS that neglect capillary heterogeneity will fail to capture important features of the CO2 plume. While commercial reservoir simulation software can account for fine scale capillary heterogeneity, it has not been designed to work efficiently with such domains, and no simulators can handle fine-scale resolution throughout the reservoir. A possible way to upscale the migration and trapping is to apply an “effective residual saturation” to coarse-scale grids. While the extent of overall immobilization can be correlated in this way, all coarser grids failed to capture the distance traveled by the migrating CO2 for large gravity number. Thus it remains unclear how best to account for LCT in the routine simulation work-flow that will be needed for large-scale GCS. Alternatives meriting investigation include streamline methods, reduced-physics proxies (e.g. particle tracking), and biased invasion percolation algorithms, which are based on precisely the capillary heterogeneity essential for LCT.« less
  1. University Of Texas At Austin, Austin, TX (United States). Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
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Technical Report
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University Of Texas At Austin, Austin, TX (United States). Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
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United States