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Monitoring gas leakages simulated in a near surface aquifer of the Ellerbek paleo-channel


Renewable energy resources are intermittent and need buffer storage to bridge the time-gap between production and demand peaks. The North German Basin has a very large capacity for compressed air/gas energy storage (CAES) in porous saltwater reservoirs and salt cavities. Even though these geological storage systems are constructed with high caution, accidental gas leakages occurred in the past. Stored gases migrated from deep reservoirs along permeable zones upwards into shallow potable aquifers. These CAES leakages cause changes in the electro-elastic properties, and density of the aquifers, and therefore justify investigations with the application of different geophysical techniques. A multiphase flow simulation has been performed to create a realistic virtual CAES leakage scenario into a shallow aquifer in Northern Germany. This scenario is used to demonstrate the detecting resolution capability of a combined geophysical monitoring approach, consisting of acoustic joint waveform inversion (FWI) of surface and borehole data, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and gravity. This combined approach of geophysical multi-techniques was able to successfully map the shape and determine the physical properties of the simulated gas phase body at a very early stage after leakage began. Techniques of FWI and ERT start to resolve CAES leakage anomalies only a few years and gravity even a few months after leakage began. Geophysical monitoring of vast areas may start by conducting time-effective aero-surveys (e.g. electromagnetic induction or gravity gradient methods) to isolate anomalous subareas of potential leakage risks. These subareas are then studied in detail using our combined high-resolution approach. In conclusion, our approach is sensitive to CAES leakages and can be used for monitoring.

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Special thanks to W. Scheer (from the geological state office of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) for providing the geologic model, H.-J. Götze and S. Schmidt for providing the software IGMAS+, and B. Driehaus and B. Weise for computer work. This study has been carried out within the framework of the ANGUS+ research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Grant Number 03EK3022. We thank our project partners for efficient collaborations.

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Correspondence to Said A. al Hagrey.

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This article is part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on ‘‘Subsurface Energy Storage’’.

Guest edited by Sebastian Bauer, Andreas Dahmke, and Olaf Kolditz.

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al Hagrey, S.A., Schäfer, D., Köhn, D. et al. Monitoring gas leakages simulated in a near surface aquifer of the Ellerbek paleo-channel. Environ Earth Sci 75, 1083 (2016).

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  • Renewable energy
  • Compressed air energy storage
  • Multiphase simulation
  • Geophysical monitoring
  • Waveform inversion
  • Electrical resistivity tomography
  • Gravity