Permeability Reduction Produced by Grain Reorganization and Accumulation of Exsolved CO2 during Geologic Carbon Sequestration: A New CO2 Trapping Mechanism

Carbon sequestration experiments were conducted on uncemented sediment and lithified rock from the Eau Claire Formation, which consisted primarily of K-feldspar and quartz. Cores were heated to accentuate reactivity between fluid and mineral grains and to force CO2 exsolution. Measured permeability of one sediment core ultimately reduced by 4 orders of magnitude as it was incrementally heated from 21 to 150 °C. Water-rock interaction produced some alteration, yielding sub-μm clay precipitation on K-feldspar grains in the core’s upstream end. Experimental results also revealed abundant newly formed pore space in regions of the core, and in some cases pores that were several times larger than the average grain size of the sediment. These large pores likely formed from elevated localized pressure caused by rapid CO2 exsolution within the core and/or an accumulating CO2 phase capable of pushing out surrounding sediment. CO2 filled the pores and blocked flow pathways. Comparison with a similar experiment using a solid arkose core indicates that CO2 accumulation and grain reorganization mainly contributed to permeability reduction during the heated sediment core experiment. This suggests that CO2 injection into sediments may store more CO2 and cause additional permeability reduction than is possible in lithified rock due to grain reorganization.