Assessing risk to fresh water resources from long term CO2 injection- laboratory and field studies

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Smyth, Rebecca C.
Hovorka, Susan D.
Lu, Jiemin
Romanak, Katherine D.
Partin, Judson W.
Wong, Corrine
Yang, Changbing

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9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies


In developing a site for geologic sequestration, one must assess potential consequences of failure to adequately contain injected carbon dioxide (CO2). Upward migration of CO2 or displacement of saline water because of increased pressure might impact protected water resources 100s to 1000s of meters above a sequestration interval. Questions posed are: (1) Can changes in chemistry of fresh water aquifers provide evidence of CO2 leakage from deep injection/sequestration reservoirs containing brine and or hydrocarbons? (2) What parameters can we use to assess potential impacts to water quality? (3) If CO2 leakage to freshwater aquifers occurs, will groundwater quality be degraded and if so, over what time period? Modeling and reaction experiments plus known occurrences of naturally CO2-charged potable water show that the common chemical reaction products from dissolution of CO2 into freshwater include rapid buffering of acidity by dissolution of calcite and slower equilibrium by reaction with clays and feldspars. Results from a series of laboratory batch reactions of CO2 with diverse aquifer rocks show geochemical response within hours to days after introduction of CO2. Results included decreased pH and increased concentrations of cations in CO2 experimental runs relative to control runs using argon (Ar). Some cation (Ba, Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn, and Sr) concentrations increased over and an order of magnitude during CO2 runs. Results are aquifer dependant in that experimental vessels containing different aquifer rocks showed different magnitudes of increase in cation concentrations. Field studies designed to improve understanding of risk to fresh water are underway in the vicinity of (1) SACROC oilfield in Scurry County, Texas, USA where CO2 has been injected for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) since 1972 and (2) the Cranfield unit in Adams County, Mississippi, USA where CO2 EOR is currently underway. Both field studies are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regional carbon sequestration partnership programs and industrial sponsors. Preliminary results of groundwater monitoring are currently available for the SACROC field study where researchers investigated 68 water wells and one spring during five field excursions between June 2006 and July 2008. Results to date show no trend of preferential degradation below drinking water standards in areas of CO2 injection (inside SACROC) as compared to areas outside of the SACROC oil field.


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Smyth, R.C., Hovorka, S.D., Lu, J., Romanak, K.D., Partin, J.W., Wong, C., Assessing risk to fresh water resources from long term CO2 injection- laboratory and field studies: presented at the 9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT-9), Washington, D.C., November 16-20, 2008. GCCC Digital Publication Series #08-03j.