Stress field orientation controls on fault leakage at a natural CO2 reservoir

Miocic, Johannes M. and Johnson, Gareth and Gilfillan, Stuart M.V. (2020) Stress field orientation controls on fault leakage at a natural CO2 reservoir. Solid Earth, 11 (4). pp. 1361-1374. ISSN 1869-9529 (

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Travertine deposits present above the St. Johns Dome natural CO2 reservoir in Arizona, USA, document a long (> 400 kyr) history of surface leakage of CO2 from a subsurface reservoir. These deposits are concentrated along surface traces of faults, implying that there has been a structural control on the migration pathway of CO2-rich fluids. Here, we combine slip tendency and fracture stability to analyse the geomechanical stability of the reservoir-bounding Coyote Wash Fault for three different stress fields and two interpreted fault rock types to predict areas with high leakage risks.We find that these areas coincide with the travertine deposits on the surface, indicating that high-permeability pathways as a result of critically stressed fracture networks exist in both a fault damage zone and around a fault tip. We conclude that these structural features control leakage. Importantly, we find that even without in situ stress field data, the known leakage points can be predicted using geomechanical analyses, despite the unconstrained tectonic setting. Whilst acquiring high-quality stress field data for secure subsurface CO2 or energy storage remains critical, we shown that a firstorder assessment of leakage risks during site selection can be made with limited stress field knowledge.