Gulf of Mexico Miocene CO2 Site Characterization Mega Transect




Meckel, Timothy A.
Trevino, Ramon H.

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This project characterized the Miocene-age sub-seafloor stratigraphy in the near-offshore portion of the Gulf of Mexico adjacent to the Texas coast. The large number of industrial sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) in coastal counties and the high density of onshore urbanization and environmentally sensitive areas make this offshore region extremely attractive for long-term storage of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources (CCS). The study leverages dense existing geologic data from decades of hydrocarbon exploration in and around the study area to characterize the regional geology for suitability and storage capacity. Primary products of the study include: regional static storage capacity estimates, sequestration “leads” and prospects with associated dynamic capacity estimates, experimental studies of CO2-brine-rock interaction, best practices for site characterization, a large-format ‘Atlas’ of sequestration for the study area, and characterization of potential fluid migration pathways for reducing storage risks utilizing novel high-resolution 3D (HR3D) seismic surveys. In addition, three subcontracted studies address source-to-sink matching optimization, offshore well bore management and environmental aspects. The various geologic data and interpretations are integrated and summarized in a series of cross-sections and maps, which represent a primary resource for any near-term commercial deployment of CCS in the area.

The regional study characterized and mapped important geologic features (e.g., Clemente-Tomas fault zone, the regionally extensive Marginulina A and Amphistegina B confining systems, etc.) that provided an important context for regional static capacity estimates and specific sequestration prospects of the study. A static capacity estimate of the majority of the Study area (14,467 mi2) was estimated at 86 metric Gigatonnes. While local capacity estimates are likely to be lower due to reservoir-scale characteristics, the offshore Miocene interval is a storage resource of National interest for providing CO2 storage as an atmospheric emissions abatement strategy.

The natural petroleum system was used as an analog to infer seal quality and predict possible migration pathways of fluids in an engineered system of anthropogenic CO2 injection and storage. The regional structural features (e.g., Clemente-Tomas fault zone) that exert primary control on the trapping and distribution of Miocene hydrocarbons are expected to perform similarly for CCS. Industrial‐scale CCS will require storage capacity utilizing well‐documented Miocene hydrocarbon (dominantly depleted gas) fields and their larger structural closures, as well as barren (unproductive, brine‐filled) closures. No assessment was made of potential for CO2 utilization for enhanced oil and gas recovery.

The use of 3D numerical fluid flow simulations have been used in the study to greatly assist in characterizing the potential storage capacity of a specific reservoir. Due to the complexity of geologic systems (stratigraphic heterogeneity) and inherent limitations on producing a 3D geologic model, these simulations are typically simplified scenarios that explore the influence of model property variability (sensitivity study). A specific site offshore San Luis Pass (southern Galveston Island) was undertaken successfully, indicating stacked storage potential. Downscaling regional capacity estimates to the local scale (and the inverse) has proven challenging, and remains an outstanding gap in capacity assessments.

In order to characterize regional seal performance and identify potential brine and CO2 leakage pathways, results from three high-resolution 3D (HR3D) seismic datasets acquired by the study using novel HR3D (P-Cable) acquisition system showed steady and significant improvements in data quality because of improved acquisition and processing technique. Finely detailed faults and stratigraphy in the shallowest 1000 milliseconds (~800 m) of data allowed for the identification and mapping of unconformable surfaces including what is probably a surface associated with the last Pleistocene glacial lowstand. The identification of a previously unrecognized (in commercial seismic data) gas chimney that was clearly defined in the 2013 HR3D survey, indicates that HR3D surveys may be useful as both a characterization tool for the overburden of a potential carbon sequestration site and as an additional monitoring tool for future engineered injection sites.

Geochemical modeling indicated that injection of CO2 would result in minor dissolution of calcite, K-feldspar and albite. In addition, modeling of typical brines in Miocene age rocks indicate that approximately 5% of injection capacity would result from CO2 dissolution into the brine. After extensive searches, no rock samples of the Marginulina A and Amphistegina B seals (“caprocks”) were obtained, but analyses of available core samples of other Miocene age mudrocks (seals or caprocks) indicate that they have sealing ability sufficient for potential CO2 storage in underlying sandstone units.


Final DOE Contract Report for DE-FE0001941DE

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