Implications of Sub-Hydrostatic Pressures in the Bravo Dome Natural CO2 Reservoir for the Long-Term Security of Geological Carbon Dioxide Storage

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Daria Akhbari, Marc A Hesse and Toti Larson, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States
The Bravo Dome field in northeast New Mexico is one of the largest gas accumulations worldwide and the largest natural CO2 accumulation in North America. The field is only 580-900 m deep and located in the Permian Tubb sandstone that unconformably overlies the granitic basement. Sathaye et al. (2014) estimated that 1.3 Gt of CO2 is stored at the reservoir. A major increase in the pore pressure relative to the hydrostatic pressure is expected due to the large amount of CO2 injected into the reservoir. However, the pre-production gas pressures indicate that most parts of the reservoir are approximately 5 MPa below hydrostatic pressure. Three processes could explain the under pressure in the Bravo Dome reservoir; 1) erosional unloading, 2) CO2 dissolution into the ambient brine, 3) cooling of CO2after injection.

Analytical solutions suggest that an erosion rate of 180 m/Ma is required to reduce the pore pressures to the values observed at Bravo Dome. Given that the current erosion rate is only 5 m/Ma (Nereson et al. 2013); the sub-hydrostatic pressures at Bravo Dome are likely due to CO2dissolution and cooling.

To investigate the impact of CO2 dissolution on the pore pressure we have developed new analytical solutions and conducted laboratory experiments. We assume that gaseous CO2 was confined to sandstones during emplacement due to the high entry pressure of the siltstones. After emplacement the CO2 dissolves in to the brine contained in the siltstones and the pressure in the sandstones declines. Assuming the sandstone-siltstone system is closed, the pressure decline due to CO2 dissolution is controlled by a single dimensionless number, η = KHRTVw /Vg. Herein, KH is Henry’s constant, R is ideal gas constant, T is temperature, Vw is water volume, and Vg is CO2 volume. The pressure drop is controlled by the ratio of water volume to CO2 volume and η varies between 0.1 to 8 at Bravo Dome. This corresponds to pressure drops between 0.8-7.5 MPa and can therefore account for the observed 5 MPa drop in pore pressures at Bravo Dome. This is consistent with geochemical observation suggesting significant dissolution of CO2 at Bravo Dome (Gilfillan 2009). The observation of sub-hydrostatic pressures in CO2 reservoirs is important because they illustrate that CO2 dissolution may mitigate problems due to injection induced overpressure in the long-term.