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Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 27;10(1):3624. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-60247-4.

Pore Structure Changes Occur During CO2 Injection into Carbonate Reservoirs.

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Australian Resources Research Centre, CSIRO, Kensington, Australia.
Curtin University Malaysia, CDT 250, 98009, Miri Sarawak, Malaysia.
Australian Resources Research Centre, CSIRO, Kensington, Australia.
Curtin University, Bentley, Australia.


Observations and modeling studies have shown that during CO2 injection into underground carbonate reservoirs, the dissolution of CO2 into formation water forms acidic brine, leading to fluid-rock interactions that can significantly impact the hydraulic properties of the host formation. However, the impacts of these interactions on the pore structure and macroscopic flow properties of host rock are poorly characterized both for the near-wellbore region and deeper into the reservoir. Little attention has been given to the influence of pressure drop from the near-wellbore region to reservoir body on disturbing the ionic equilibrium in the CO2-saturated brine and consequent mineral precipitation. In this paper, we present the results of a novel experimental procedure designed to address these issues in carbonate reservoirs. We injected CO2-saturated brine into a composite core made of two matching grainstone carbonate core plugs with a tight disk placed between them to create a pressure profile of around 250 psi resembling that prevailing in reservoirs during CO2 injection. We investigated the impacts of fluid-rock interactions at pore and continuum scale using medical X-ray CT, nuclear magnetic resonance, and scanning electron microscopy. We found that strong calcite dissolution occurs near to the injection point, which leads to an increase in primary intergranular porosity and permeability of the near injection region, and ultimately to wormhole  formation. The strong heterogeneous dissolution of calcite grains leads to the formation of intra-granular micro-pores. At later stages of the dissolution, the internal regions of ooids become accessible to the carbonated brine, leading to the formation of moldic porosity. At distances far from the injection point, we observed minimal or no change in pore structure, pore roughness, pore populations, and rock hydraulic properties. The pressure drop of 250 psi slightly disturbed the chemical equilibrium of the system, which led to minor precipitation of sub-micron sized calcite crystals but due to the large pore throats of the rock, these deposits had no measurable impact on rock permeability. The trial illustrates that the new procedure is valuable for investigating fluid-rock interactions by reproducing the geochemical consequences of relatively steep pore pressure gradients during CO2 injection.

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