The current approach to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) from pulverized coal-fired power plants is not economically viable without either large subsidies or a very high price on carbon. Current schemes require roughly a third of a power plant's energy for carbon dioxide capture and pressurization. The production of energy from geopressured aquifers has evolved as a separate, independent technology from the sequestration of carbon dioxide in deep, saline aquifers. A gamechanging new idea is described here that combines the two technologies and adds another: dissolution of carbon dioxide into extracted brine which is then re-injected. A systematic investigation over a range of conditions was performed to explore the best strategy for the coupled process of CO2 sequestration and energy production. Geological models of geopressuredgeothermal aquifers were developed using available data from studies of Gulf Coast aquifers. These geological models were used to perform compositional reservoir simulations of realistic processes with coupled aquifer and wellbore models.
The sequestration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in deep saline aquifers (Keith, 2009) as well as the extraction of methane and geothermal energy (heat) from deep geopressured-geothermal aquifers (Jones, 1975) have been studied independently in the past. However, capturing and storing CO2 in aquifers is an expensive process without any monetary return on investment. On the other hand, energy extraction from deep geopressured aquifers was abandoned as a result of low natural gas prices in the 70s and 80s (Griggs, 2005), which prevented this process from becoming economically feasible. In this study, we present a new strategy in which the CO2 sequestration and methane/geothermal energy extraction are combined. In fact, we suggest that the cost of the former can be offset by the profits from the latter.
Geologic formations are capable of storing huge amounts of CO2. Specifically, deep saline aquifers are the best candidates for the storage of significant amounts of CO2 emitted by pulverized coal-fired power plants. However, the storage technology faces several constraints. The most important constraint is the cost of the storage process which includes capturing, purifying, pressurizing, and injecting CO2 (Rochelle, 2009). In addition to the storage cost, other possible constraints exist such as the injection capacity of the aquifer and environmental hazards.
Formations of abnormally high pressure and temperature lie along the Gulf Coast of the United States at depths exceeding 10,000 feet. The brine in these formations is saturated with methane. The methane content of this brine is on the order of 30- 45 SCF of methane per barrel and the total amount is estimated to be between 3000 to 46000 TCF (Griggs, 2005). For example, at 34 SCF per barrel, a small geopressured aquifer with a pore volume of 1 billion barrels would hold a volume of dissolved methane of 34 BCF with an energy content of 35 trillion Btu. When CO2 is dissolved in brine saturated with methane, almost all of the methane comes out of the solution and forms a gas phase of almost pure methane (Taggart, 2009). The production of this methane could help offset the cost of CO2 storage. Moreover, the production of methane gas and/or brine saturated with methane while CO2 is being injected will reduce or eliminate concerns about pressure build-up accompanying CO2 injection. This pressure build-up is a key constraint on large-scale sequestration, because it significantly reduces achievable rates of CO2 injection.