Evaluating Risks of Sequestered CO₂ on Groundwater Quality: the Combined and Separate Effects of CH4, As, and Cd

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Amanda Lawter1, Nikolla P Qafoku2, Hongbo Shao1 and Christopher F Brown3, (1)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States, (2)Pacific Northwest Natl Lab, Richland, WA, United States, (3)Pacific Northwest National Lab, Richland, WA, United States
Carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration in deep subsurface reservoirs is an attractive strategy for the mitigation and reduction of global CO2 emissions. Previous studies have identified potential geochemical effects of CO2 gas leaks on overlying groundwater aquifers. However, in addition to CO2, other gasses may also be present. For example, methane (CH4) can be present as an impurity in the CO2 gas stream, a native gas, or can be produced within the reservoir or aquifer after the introduction of CO2.

Continuous and stop-flow column experiments and batch studies were conducted to determine changes in pH and aqueous elemental concentrations and the fate of contaminants (As and Cd) when CH4 is present in addition to CO2 gas. Two sediment samples were obtained from an aquifer overlying potential CO2 storage reservoirs (High Plains Aquifer, KS). Column experiments were conducted with synthetic groundwater (SGW) or As/Cd spiked SGW saturated with a mixture of 99% CO2and 1% CH4 gases. The spiked SGW contained 114 ppb As and 28 ppb Cd to represent maximum contaminant levels present in CO2 reservoir brines as shown in previous modeling studies. Batch experiments were also conducted with spiked SGW, with CO2 or the CO2/CH4 mixture.

Column study results showed most elements followed similar concentration trends after injection of CO2/CH4 saturated SGW or spiked SGW. Cd concentrations remained below detection limits for both sediments, with or without the spike. As concentrations were similar between SGW and spiked SGW columns until after the 3rd stop flow. As levels in the spiked SGW column then increased while levels in the SGW column decreased, suggesting the sediments are the source of effluent As until this point. Similar pH values were also observed until the 3rd stop flow event, where the pH of both SGW columns decreased significantly compared to spiked SGW columns. Batch studies showed As concentrations did not decrease as quickly when CH4 was present with the CO2. The concentrations of other elements, including Cd, followed trends similar to the experiments without CH4. Possible effects of redox changes and differences in mineralogy of the two sediments are under investigation. Results of this study, along with those of our previous efforts, are significant for risk evaluation and site selection for CO2 sequestration.