A (not so) shallow controlled CO2 release experiment in a fault zone

Michael, Karsten and Avijegon, Arsham and Ricard, Ludovic and Myers, Matthew and Tertyshnikov, Konstantin and Pevzner, Roman and Strand, Julian and Hortle, Allison and Stalker, Linda and Pervukhina, Marina and Harris, Brett and Feitz, Andrew and Pejcic, Bobby and Larcher, Alf and Rachakonda, Praveen and Freifeld, Barry and Woitt, Mark and Langhi, Laurent and Dance, Tess and Myers, Jo and Roberts, Jennifer J. and Saygin, Erdinc and White, Cameron and Seyyedi, Mojtaba (2021) A (not so) shallow controlled CO2 release experiment in a fault zone. Preprint / Working Paper. Social Science Research Network (SSRN), Amsterdam, Netherlands. (https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3820206)

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The CSIRO In-Situ Laboratory Project (ISL) is located in Western Australia and has two main objectives related to monitoring leaks from a CO2 storage complex by controlled-release experiments: 1) improving the monitorability of gaseous CO2 accumulations at intermediate depth, and 2) assessing the impact of faults on CO2 migration. A first test at the In-situ Lab has evaluated the ability to monitor and detect unwanted leakage of CO2 from a storage complex in a major fault zone. The ISL consists of three instrumented wells up to 400 m deep: 1) Harvey-2 used primarily for gaseous CO2 injection, 2) ISL OB-1, a fibreglass geophysical monitoring well with behind-casing instrumentation, and 3) a shallow (27 m) groundwater well for fluid sampling. A controlled-release test injected 38 tonnes of CO2 between 336-342 m depth in February 2019, and the gas was monitored by a wide range of downhole and surface monitoring technologies. CO2 reached the ISL OB-1 monitoring well (7 m away) after approximately 1.5 days and an injection volume of 5 tonnes. Evidence of arrival was determined by distributed temperature sensing and the CO2 plume was detected also by borehole seismic after injection of as little as 7 tonnes. Observations suggest that the fault zone did not alter the CO2 migration along bedding at the scale and depth of the experiment. No vertical CO2 migration was detected beyond the perforated injection interval; no notable changes were observed in groundwater quality or soil gas chemistry during and post injection. The early detection of significantly less than 38 tonnes of CO2 injected into the shallow subsurface demonstrates rapid and sensitive monitorability of potential leaks in the overburden of a commercial-scale storage project, prior to reaching shallow groundwater, soil zones or the atmosphere. The ISL is a unique and enduring research facility at which monitoring technologies will be further developed and tested for increasing public and regulator confidence in the ability to detect potential CO2 leakage at shallow to intermediate depth.