Role of correlation structures of permeability field on residual trapping mechanisms and buoyancy-driven CO2 migration

Weon Shik Han, Si Yong Lee, Chuan Lu, Brian J. McPherson, Richard Esser

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Previous research suggests that for many geological CO2 sequestration reservoirs, up to 60% of the injected CO2 will be trapped by capillary forces (irreducible saturation), a mechanism termed residual CO2 trapping. More specifically, our recent models of ongoing field tests of geological sequestration suggest that residual CO2 trapping can be maximized if the CO2 plume rises a greater distance due to buoyancy (i.e., injection at the deepest part of a thick reservoir) and sweeps a larger area before coming in contact with low permeability caprock. Although this strategy maximizes the residual CO2 trapping in theory because CO2 plume contacts more pore spaces, it also increases the probability that upwelling- CO2 may come into contact with faults or other leakage pathways. Geological heterogeneity seems to play greater role with respect to residual CO2 trapping potential. To help clarify what processes and properties will maximize residual CO2 trapping and minimize CO2-buoyant flow, we conducted a systematic analysis of permeability (k) fields and its correlation structures. The k fields served as primary parameterization of a numerical model describing CO2 migration during a 100-year simulation period. We compared various permutations of two-dimensional conceptual models, including homogeneous, random, homogenous with low-k lens, and anisotropically-correlated k fields. Using a Sequential Gaussian Simulation method, for most of models, we generated 10 realizations in each model permutation. In each simulation, the amount of mobile-, residual-, and aqueous-trapped CO2 was calculated and the spatial distribution of the CO2 plume was quantified using the first and second spatial moments. Both homogeneous and random simulation results suggest that the amount of residual trapped CO2 increases as the effective k increases. These results imply that the overall velocity distribution, which governs the sweeping area of the CO2 plume, is a critical factor for residual CO2 trapping. However, as overall velocity (or k field) increases, we observed that the CO2 plume reaches the caprock more quickly. In simulations of anisotropically correlated k fields with specific correlation length ratios of 25 m×10 m,50 m×10 m, and 100 m×10 m in x (horizontal) and z (vertical) directions, respectively, the CO2 migration distance due to buoyancy force is shorter as the horizontal correlation length becomes greater. In addition, as the horizontal correlation length becomes greater, residual trapping increases because the CO2 plume spreads farther laterally, sweeping a larger area. In sum, results of this analysis suggest that heterogeneous k fields with greater anisotropic correlation ratios tend to maximize residual trapping and minimize buoyancy-driven CO2 migration. Our findings also suggest that k correlation structures, especially anisotropic media with specific ratios of correlation lengths, can strongly impact CO2 trapping mechanisms by controlling velocity and tortuosity, which in turn determines the sweeping area of CO2 plumes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3493-3498
Number of pages6
JournalEnergy Procedia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb
Event9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies, GHGT-9 - Washington DC, United States
Duration: 2008 Nov 162008 Nov 20

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy(all)


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