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Issue 12, 2020
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Identifying geologic characteristics and operational decisions to meet global carbon sequestration goals

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Geologic carbon sequestration is the process of injecting and storing CO2 in subsurface reservoirs and is an essential technology for global environmental security (e.g., climate change mitigation) and economic security (e.g., CO2 tax credits). To meet energy, economic, and environmental goals, society will have to identify vast volumes of high-capacity, low-cost, and viable storage reservoirs for sequestering CO2. In turn, this requires understanding how major geologic characteristics (such as reservoir depth, thickness, permeability, porosity, and temperature) and design and operational decisions (such as injection well spacing) impact CO2 injection rates, storage capacity, and economics. Although many numerical simulation tools exist, they cannot repeat the required thousands or millions of simulations to identify ideal reservoir properties and the sensitivity and interaction between geologic parameters and operational decisions. Here, we use SCO2T (pronounced “Scott”; [S with combining low line]equestration of [C with combining low line][O with combining low line][2 with combining low line] [T with combining low line]ool)—a fast-running, reduced-order modeling framework—to explore the sensitivity of major geologic parameters and operational decisions to engineering (CO2 injection rates, plume dimensions, and storage capacities and effectiveness) and costs. Our results show, for the first time, benefits and impacts such as allowing CO2 plumes to overlap, how different well spacing patterns affect CO2 sequestration, the effects on costs of including brine treatment and disposal, and the effect of restricting injection rates to 1 MtCO2 per y based on well limitations. We reveal multiple novel and unintuitive findings including: (i) deeper reservoirs have reduced carbon sequestration costs until injection rates reach 1 MtCO2 per y, at which point deeper reservoirs become more expensive, (ii) thicker formations allow for increased injection rates and storage capacity, but thickness barely impacts plume areas, (iii) higher geothermal gradients result in reduced sequestration costs, unless brine treatment/disposal costs are included, at which point reservoirs having lower geothermal gradients are more economical because they produce less brine for each unit of injected CO2, and (iv) allowing plumes to overlap has a significantly positive impact of increasing storage capacities but has only a small influence on reducing sequestration costs. Overall, our results illustrate new scientific conclusions to help identify suitable sites to inject and store CO2, to help understand the complex interaction between geology and resulting costs, and to help support the pursuit of meeting global sequestration targets.

Graphical abstract: Identifying geologic characteristics and operational decisions to meet global carbon sequestration goals

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Supplementary files

Article information

04 8 2020
19 10 2020
First published
20 10 2020

Energy Environ. Sci., 2020,13, 5000-5016
Article type

Identifying geologic characteristics and operational decisions to meet global carbon sequestration goals

R. S. Middleton, J. D. Ogland-Hand, B. Chen, J. M. Bielicki, K. M. Ellett, D. R. Harp and R. M. Kammer, Energy Environ. Sci., 2020, 13, 5000
DOI: 10.1039/D0EE02488K

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