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Evaporite Caprock Integrity: An Experimental Study of Reactive Mineralogy and Pore-Scale Heterogeneity during Brine-CO2 Exposure

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posted on 02.01.2013 by Megan M. Smith, Yelena Sholokhova, Yue Hao, Susan A. Carroll
We present characterization and geochemical data from a core-flooding experiment on a sample from the Three Fingers evaporite unit forming the lower extent of caprock at the Weyburn-Midale reservoir, Canada. This low-permeability sample was characterized in detail using X-ray computed microtomography before and after exposure to CO2-acidified brine, allowing mineral phase and voidspace distributions to be quantified in three dimensions. Solution chemistry indicated that CO2-acidified brine preferentially dissolved dolomite until saturation was attained, while anhydrite remained unreactive. Dolomite dissolution contributed to increases in bulk permeability through the formation of a localized channel, guided by microfractures as well as porosity and reactive phase distributions aligned with depositional bedding. An indirect effect of carbonate mineral reactivity with CO2-acidified solution is voidspace generation through physical transport of anhydrite freed from the rock matrix following dissolution of dolomite. The development of high permeability fast pathways in this experiment highlights the role of carbonate content and potential fracture orientations in evaporite caprock formations considered for both geologic carbon sequestration and CO2-enhanced oil recovery operations.

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