A study of bio-mineralization for the application of reducing leakage potential of geologically stored CO 2

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


A primary concern of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is leakage of the stored carbon dioxide (CO 2) from the subsurface back to the surface. To ensure long term storage of the CO 2, mitigation strategies are being developed to seal high permeability regions, such as fractures present in the caprock or the near wellbore environment. Ureolysis induced calcium carbonate precipitation (UICP) is a widely investigated technology utilizing the enzymatically driven process of ureolysis to alter the properties of porous media. The advantage of this technology over traditional fracture sealing methods, such as well cement, is the use of low-viscosity aqueous fluids enabling access to smaller fractures. However, CCS reservoirs provide a problematic environment for microbial activity due to the acidity of dissolved CO 2, high pressures, and elevated temperatures. A flow-through pressurized reactor experiment and batch high-pressure ureolysis rate experiments were conducted to investigate the application of UICP technology to mitigate CO 2 migration. First, UICP was induced in two composite rock cores in an environment simulating a CCS reservoir, using a high-pressure axial flow reactor, with an initial and final exposure of the rock cores to a carbonated brine. As a result of UICP, the apparent permeability of the rock cores were reduced by 5-orders of magnitude. The CO 2 challenge increased apparent permeability by 4-orders of magnitude, likely due to a preferential flow path created through the calcium carbonate (CaCO 3) seal, which was found with X-ray microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) imaging. The porosity of the composite rock cores was assessed throughout the experiment with two non-invasive technologies, micro-CT and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), both reported a significant decrease in porosity due to UICP and a slight increase after the CO 2 exposure. Second, ureolysis kinetics were assessed in the presence of a pressurized carbonated brine at pressures between 0 and 4 MPa. The kinetic studies were performed in a high-pressure batch reactor connected to high-pressure pH and conductivity probes. Samples could not be taken from the batch reactor without losing pressure; thus, conductivity was used as a surrogate measurement for urea concentration. It was found that, for the pressures tested, JBM urease was capable of hydrolyzing urea in the presence of a pressurized carbonated brine. It was also hypothesized that the rate observed at each experimental pressure may have been dependent on the buffered pH of the system. The combination of these studies suggests that, if the challenge of dissolution could be overcome, bio-mineralization may be used to enhance CCS by reducing the permeability of CO 2 leakage pathways.




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