, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 525-551,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 12 Jan 2012

The Geomechanics of CO2 Storage in Deep Sedimentary Formations

Abstract

This paper provides a review of the geomechanics and modeling of geomechanics associated with geologic carbon storage (GCS), focusing on storage in deep sedimentary formations, in particular saline aquifers. The paper first introduces the concept of storage in deep sedimentary formations, the geomechanical processes and issues related with such an operation, and the relevant geomechanical modeling tools. This is followed by a more detailed review of geomechanical aspects, including reservoir stress-strain and microseismicity, well integrity, caprock sealing performance, and the potential for fault reactivation and notable (felt) seismic events. Geomechanical observations at current GCS field deployments, mainly at the In Salah CO2 storage project in Algeria, are also integrated into the review. The In Salah project, with its injection into a relatively thin, low-permeability sandstone is an excellent analogue to the saline aquifers that might be used for large scale GCS in parts of Northwest Europe, the U.S. Midwest, and China. Some of the lessons learned at In Salah related to geomechanics are discussed, including how monitoring of geomechanical responses is used for detecting subsurface geomechanical changes and tracking fluid movements, and how such monitoring and geomechanical analyses have led to preventative changes in the injection parameters. Recently, the importance of geomechanics has become more widely recognized among GCS stakeholders, especially with respect to the potential for triggering notable (felt) seismic events and how such events could impact the long-term integrity of a CO2 repository (as well as how it could impact the public perception of GCS). As described in the paper, to date, no notable seismic event has been reported from any of the current CO2 storage projects, although some unfelt microseismic activities have been detected by geophones. However, potential future commercial GCS operations from large power plants will require injection at a much larger scale. For such large-scale injections, a staged, learn-as-you-go approach is recommended, involving a gradual increase of injection rates combined with continuous monitoring of geomechanical changes, as well as siting beneath a multiple layered overburden for multiple flow barrier protection, should an unexpected deep fault reactivation occur.