Date of Award:

2013

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Geology

Advisor/Chair:

James P. Evans

Abstract

Geologic storage of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) by injection into underground porous sandstone reservoirs has been proposed as a method for the reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Upwards migration and leakage of injected fluids along natural fault and fracture networks is a key risk factor for potential injection locations. We examine exposed natural analogs to evaluate the impacts of faulting and fracturing on reservoir and top-seal pairs and to evaluate evidence for paleomigration of fluids along the fault zone.

We examine the Iron Wash fault, a 25-km long normal fault which cuts Jurassic sedimentary rocks and has throws that range from 20-120 m, to examine how a fault may affect seal integrity. Field mapping, kinematic analysis, petrographic analysis, characterization of the fault zone facies and fault architecture, analysis of altered and mineralized rocks in and around the fault zone, and modeling of fault seal capacity was conducted to provide an understanding of the Iron Wash fault zone. Field data and observations were combined with well log and borehole data to produce three types of models for the Iron Wash fault: 1) geometric model of the fault in the subsurface, 2) predictive models of fault zone behavior and fault seal analysis, and 3) predictive geomechanical models of the response of the fault zone to an imposed stress field and increasing the effective stress on the fault.

We conclude that the Iron Wash fault zone has low sealing capacity and will likely not behave as a seal for fluids against the fault zone due primarily to modest throw on the fault and high frequency of fractures associated with the fault zone. Analysis of fluid alteration and mineralization around the fault zone indicates that the fault zone was conduit for paleo-fluids. We conclude that the fault is not likely to develop a sealing membrane and therefore will most likely fail as a seal to fluids moving through the reservoirs modeled here. Modeling results indicate that a reduction in the effective normal stress on fault surfaces may induce failure of faults resulting in earthquakes or increased hydraulic conductivity of fractures.

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