Reducing the risk of well bore leakage using engineered biomineralization barriers


If CO2 is injected in deep geological formations it is important that the receiving formation has sufficient porosity and permeability for storage and transmission and be overlain by a suitable low-permeability cap rock formation. When the resulting CO2 plume encounters a well bore, leakage may occur through various pathways in the “disturbed zone” surrounding the well casing. Gasda et al. , propose a method for determining effective well bore permeability from a field pressure test. If permeability results from such tests prove unacceptably large, strategies for in situ mitigation of potential leakage pathways become important. To be effective, leakage mitigation methods must block leakage pathways on timescales longer than the plume will be mobile, be able to be delivered without causing well screen plugging, and be resistant to supercritical CO2 (ScCO2) challenges. Traditional mitigation uses cement, a viscous fluid that requires a large enough aperture for delivery and that also must bond to the surrounding surfaces in order to be effective. Technologies that can be delivered via low viscosity fluids and that can effectively plug small aperture pathways, or even the porous rock surrounding the well could have significant advantages for some leakage scenarios. We propose a microbially mediated method for plugging preferential leakage pathways and/or porous media, thereby lowering the risk of unwanted upward migration of CO2, similar to that discussed by Mitchell et al. .We examine the concept of using engineered microbial biofilms which are capable of precipitating crystalline calcium carbonate using the process of ureolysis. The resulting combination of biofilm plus mineral deposits, if targeted near points of CO2 injection, may result in the long-term sealing of preferential leakage pathways. Successful development of these biologically-based concepts could result in a CO2 leakage mitigation technology which can be applied either before CO2 injection or as a remedial measure. Results from laboratory column studies are presented which illustrate how biomineralization deposits can be developed along packed sand columns at length scales of 2.54 cm and 61 cm. Strategies for controlling mineral deposition of uniform thickness along the axis of flow are also discussed.




Cunningham, A.B., Gerlach, R.; Spangler, L.; Mitchell, A.C.; Parks, S.; Phillips, A. (2011): Reducing the risk of well bore leakage using engineered biomineralization barriers. Energy Procedia. 4:5178-5185. doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2011.02.495
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