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Reviewing the experience from the CO2CRC Otway Project

2010 has seen CCS development progress on a range of fronts; it has also been a big year for the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) and the CO2CRC Otway Project, with CO2CRC renewed for another five years.

2010 saw us reach major milestones for the CO2CRC Otway Project, Australia’s first, and currently only demonstration of the deep geological storage of carbon dioxide. Following the success of the Stage 1 injection and monitoring, we have collated our results and kicked off a new stage of research which is now underway.

During Stage 1, over 65,000 tonnes of naturally occurring CO2 and methane from the Buttress gas well was compressed and piped two kilometres to Naylor, a depleted natural gas field. That gas was injected at a depth of 2050 metres and stored underground in a reservoir that previously contained natural gas.

The comprehensive monitoring and verification program for the project is across the sub-surface, near surface and atmospheric domains. Monitoring activities started two years before injection and will continue for at least two years after the injection process has ended. Since April 2008 there has been no evidence of leakage and monitoring observations, such as the arrival of injected tracer gases at the monitoring well, have been consistent with modelled predictions.

Stage 1 gave us important knowledge in the areas of operations, monitoring and verification, reservoir characterisation and community engagement. The infrastructure put in place for Stage 1 also provided a solid foundation for ongoing research at the site.

The overall research aim of CO2CRC is to tackle many of the knowledge gaps that need to be filled to accelerate CCS development. On the storage side of things, one goal is to better understand the behaviour of stored CO2 in saline formations. The potential storage space in such formations worldwide makes this a very important area of research.

To this end a new well (CRC-2) was drilled in early 2010 into the Paaratte Formation, a typical saline formation with a mixture of permeable sands and impermeable baffles. In February 2011 we installed a 28 metre downhole assembly of precision monitoring and injection instruments 1400 metres underground (click here to watch a video of the installation). International collaborations are an important part of the Otway Project, and the contributions of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California and KIGAM from Korea are proving key to Stage 2.

Final preparations before the instruments are installed downhole, Stage 2 Otway Project.
Image source: CO2CRC.

Currently we are completing surface works at the site, including tanks, pipelines and lab facilities, before experiments follow later this year.

The experiments will involve a series of production and extractions performed over two months. They will examine the CO2 trapping mechanisms that are important for storing CO2 in these formations. These include residual trapping, where CO2 is left behind in the pore space as the CO2 plume travels through the reservoir; and dissolution trapping, where the CO2 dissolves into the formation water.

The research is being watched around the world and will provide valuable information for improving estimations of storage capacity in saline formations, as well as monitoring and verification techniques specific to this type of storage, such as improved seismic techniques. The work will also provide a useful base for larger scale injections in the future.

The CO2CRC Otway Project is funded by the Australian Federal Government through the CRC Program, the Victorian Government, and CO2CRC partners. Research agencies in Australia, Canada and the US have also provided support.

Further information on the Otway Project is available on the CO2CRC website.

Follow CO2CRC and Otway Project progress on Twitter: @CCS_Research.

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