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Geological Storage of CO2 in Deep Saline Formations

A summary of this new book from Volume 29 in Theory and Applications of Transport in Porous Media.
This article appeared in Vol. 14, No. 6 - 2017

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This new book on carbon capture and storage (CCS) might be perfectly timed to reach an eager audience. The storage of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in deep saline formations and depleted petroleum fields is a transition technology to a low carbon (energy) future but one which has struggled to become established in any meaningful way. The problem is that first generation capture, compression and storage is expensive; not so much in the storage of CO2 but rather the capture of dilute CO2 in flue gases.

There have been thousands of studies and many trials and demonstration projects in North America, Europe and Australia, with less activity in Asia and South America. African nations have studied but not trialled CCS. Few governments have seized the opportunity to make CCS happen and demonstration projects have been cancelled at the eleventh hour, citing high costs. Norway alone has run a project for 20 years, at Sleipner in the North Sea. However, this parlous situation is changing. The global Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, created by 10 multinational and national petroleum companies, aims to ensure CCS is developed as part of the effort to maintain global temperature rise below 2°C. The early signs are that this organisation is making sufficient investments for CCS to take off properly. Within this setting, the information contained in this book will likely prove invaluable.

Ten Chapters

The book comprises 10 chapters. The first covers the concepts behind CCS including the impact of greenhouse gases on climate and likely consequences of climate change, while the second examines the processes involved in the geological storage of CO2, with case histories. Chapter 3 is titled Mathematical Modeling of CO2 Storage in a Geological Formation and Chapter 4 is similarly titled Mathematical Modeling: Approaches for Model Solution, a little misleading since both chapters cover the physics and reservoir engineering aspects of CO2 storage, though Chapter 4 is rather more detailed, with three case histories apparently of real or proposed storage sites. However, it is not clear that the modelling work presented in any of these examples has been ground-truthed against measured information from real sites.

Chapter 5 addresses the perennial problem of upscaling from laboratory to field scale, with Chapter 6 called Laboratory Experiments. It is of course not a pre-requisite to read chapters in order but since several of the properties addressed in Chapter 6 are upscaled in Chapter 5, these two chapters might well have been presented the other way around.

Site Characterisation is covered in Chapter 7. Much of the first half of the chapter will be completely familiar to petroleum geoscientists and much of the second half to petroleum and reservoir engineers. Site characterisation is, of course, a critical component of any carbon storage development and this chapter gives the topic comprehensive treatment.

Chapter 8 is called Field Injection Operations and Monitoring of the Injected CO2; while injection is mentioned frequently in the chapter it is in the context of monitoring during injection rather than as implied by the part title, ‘injection operations’. Nonetheless, the coverage of monitoring techniques is good and there are real case histories of monitoring reported. I was puzzled why Chapter 9 was called Natural Analogue Studies. Half of the examples are CO2 injection sites; great stories and important sections within the chapter but only a few of the cases presented are natural or mixed CO2 petroleum accumulations. Chapter 10 covers storage risks and risk management policy. At 20 pages it is not much more than a taster of what will happen if CCS becomes an established technology. This is a key topic for development along with new, continuous, passive monitoring technologies.

Comprehensive and Balanced

This is an intense book, heavy (necessarily) on equations and narrative but light on illustrations, some of which are not of the highest quality and difficult to read. A few would have been better bigger. The referencing is by chapter and fairly comprehensive. Given the explosion of articles on carbon storage the editors have a pretty reasonable balance from the main regions of contribution and expertise in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia.

This book is more comprehensive and better balanced than preceding books on carbon storage (including my own). If carbon storage becomes a mainstream technology, then this book will become a classic and we can expect to see well-thumbed copies on the bookshelves of those charged with storing CO2 in deep saline formations.

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