Empirical analysis of fault seal capacity for CO₂ sequestration, Lower Miocene, Texas Gulf Coast

Nicholson, Andrew Joseph
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The Gulf Coast of Texas has been proposed as a high capacity storage region for geologic sequestration of anthropogenic CO₂. The Miocene section within the Texas State Waters is an attractive offshore alternative to onshore sequestration. However, the stratigraphic targets of interest highlight a need to utilize fault-bounded structural traps. Regional capacity estimates in this area have previously focused on simple volumetric estimations or more sophisticated fill-to-spill scenarios with faults acting as no-flow boundaries. Capacity estimations that ignore the static and dynamic sealing capacities of faults may therefore be inaccurate. A comprehensive fault seal analysis workflow for CO₂-brine membrane fault seal potential has been developed for geologic site selection in the Miocene section of the Texas State Waters. To reduce uncertainty of fault performance, a fault seal calibration has been performed on 6 Miocene natural gas traps in the Texas State Waters in order to constrain the capillary entry pressures of the modeled fault gouge. Results indicate that modeled membrane fault seal capacity for the Lower Miocene section agrees with published global fault seal databases. Faults can therefore serve as effective seals, as suggested by natural hydrocarbon accumulations. However, fault seal capacity is generally an order of magnitude lower than top seal capacity in the same stratigraphic setting, with implications for storage projects. For a specific non-hydrocarbon producing site studied for sequestration (San Luis Pass salt dome setting) with moderately dipping (16°) traps (i.e. high potential column height), membrane fault seal modeling is shown to decrease fault-bound trap area, and therefore storage capacity volume, compared with fill-to-spill modeling. However, using the developed fault seal workflow at other potential storage sites will predict the degree to which storage capacity may approach fill-to-spill capacity, depending primarily on the geology of the fault (shale gouge ratio – SGR) and the structural relief of the trap.