Integrating carbon capture and storage with energy production from saline aquifers
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Technologies considered for separating CO₂ from flue gas and injecting CO₂ into saline aquifers are energy intensive, costly, and technically challenging. Production of dissolved natural gas and geothermal energy by extraction of aquifer brine has shown the potential of offsetting the cost of CO₂ capture and storage along with other technical and environmental advantages. The key is to recognize inherent value in the energy content of brine in many parts of the world. Dissolved methane in brine and geothermal energy are two of the sources of energy of many aquifers. For example, geopressured-geothermal aquifers of the US Gulf Coast contain sheer volume of hot brine and dissolved methane. For the same reason, the capacity of these geopressured-geothermal aquifers for storage of CO₂ is remarkable. In this study, various reservoir models were developed from data of Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast saline aquifers. A systematic study was performed to determine the range of uncertainty of the properties and the prospective of energy production from saline aquifers. Two CO₂ injection strategies were proposed for storage of CO₂ based on the results of simulation studies. Injection of CO₂-saturated brine showed several advantages compared to injection of supercritical CO₂. An overall energy analysis was performed on the closed-loop cycles of capture from power plants, storage of CO₂, and production of energy. The level of cost offset of CCS technology by producing energy from target aquifers strongly depends on the applications of the produced energy. The temperature of the produced brine from geopressured-geothermal aquifers is higher than the temperature of amine stripper column. Calculations for the strategy of injecting CO₂-saturated brine show that the amount of extracted thermal energy from geopressured-geothermal aquifers exceeds the amount of heat required for capturing CO₂ by amine scrubbing. In the process of injecting dissolved CO₂, compressors and pumps should run to pressurize the CO₂ and brine to be transported and achieve the required wellhead pressure. The preliminary estimations indicate that the produced methane provides more energy than that required for pressurization. In the regions where the temperature gradient is normal, the temperature of the produced brine may not be high enough for using in the chemical absorption processes. Separation mechanisms driven by pressure difference are the alternatives for chemical absorption processes since the produced methane can be burned for running the compressors and pumps. Membrane process seems to be the leading technology candidate. The preliminary estimations show that the produced power by extracted methane and geothermal energy exceeds the power needed for membranes, compressors, and pumps. Neither storage of greenhouse gases in saline aquifers nor production of methane and/or geothermal energy from these aquifers are profitable. However, designing a closed looped system by combining methods of capture, storage and production may pay off the whole process at least from the energy point of view.