Local capillary trapping and permeability-retarded accumulation during geologic carbon sequestration
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Safe storage of CO2 in saline aquifers depends on CO2 migration rate, accumulation, and trapping inside saline aquifers that have intrinsic heterogeneity. This heterogeneity can be in both capillary entry pressure and permeability. The former heterogeneity causes local capillary trapping while the latter results in permeability-retarded accumulation. A main objective of this dissertation is to understand how both local capillary trapping and permeability-retarded accumulation secure CO2 storage. We establish a fast simulation technique to model local capillary trapping during CO2 injection into saline aquifers. In this technique, modeling efforts are decoupled into two parts: identifying trapping in a capillary entry pressure field and simulating CO2 flow in a permeability field. The former fields are correlated with the latter using the Leverett j-function. The first part describes an extended use of a geologic criterion originally proposed by Saadatpoor (2012). This criterion refers to a single value of ‘critical capillary entry pressure’ that is used to indicate barrier or local traps cells during buoyant flow. Three issues with the criterion are the unknown physical critical value, the massive overestimation of trapping, and boundary barriers. The first two issues are resolved through incorporating viscous flow of CO2. The last issue is resolved through creating periodic boundaries. This creation enables us to study both the amount and clusters of local capillary traps in infinite systems, and meanwhile the effects of reservoir heterogeneity, system size, aspect ratio, and boundary types are examined. In the second part, we adapt a connectivity analysis to assess CO2 plume dynamics. This analysis is then integrated into the geologic criterion to evaluate how injection strategies affect local capillary trapping in reservoirs. We demonstrate that reservoir heterogeneity affects the optimal injection strategies in terms of maximizing this trapping. We conduct analytical and numerical modeling of CO2 accumulations caused by both permeability hindrances and capillary barriers. The analytical model describes CO2 buoyant migration and accumulation at a low permeability region above a high-permeability region. In the limiting case of zero capillary pressure, the model equation is solved using the method of characteristics. The permeability-retarded accumulation is illustrated through CO2 saturation profiles and time-distance diagrams. Capillary trapping is subsequently accounted for by graphically incorporating the capillary pressure curve and capillary threshold effect. The relative importance of these two types of accumulations is examined under various buoyant source fluxes and porous media properties. Results demonstrate that accumulation estimate that account for only capillary trapping understates the amount of CO2 accumulated beneath low permeability structures during significant periods of a sequestration operation.