The most viable options for permanent removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere include large-scale injection of CO2 from stationary sources, such as coal-fired power plants and heavy-oil production, into brine-filled formations. One of the main risks identified with storing CO2 in the subsurface is the potential for leakage through existing wells penetrating the caprock. The wellbore system has several components that can fail and create leakage pathways, including type and placement of wellbore casing and cements, completion method, abandonment, and wellbore expansion or contraction by changes in temperature and pressure. Of the 1,000 wells in the study area near Wabamun Lake, Alberta, 95 wells penetrated the immediate caprock above the proposed Nisku injection formation and were identified as potential leakage pathways. The leakage risk of these wells was evaluated on the basis of knowledge of the well design, current well status, and historical regulations in the area. Only four wells, for the subset of 27 wells studied, were identified as requiring workover, which was less of a problem than anticipated. To evaluate the risk of creating leakage pathways by thermal and pressure changes caused by CO2 injection, a 3D finite-element model was built by use of poroelastoplastic material models for cement and formation. Multistage simulations for casing/cement and cement/ formation interactions with temperature-enabled elements were conducted. A parametric study of cement properties was conducted to investigate cement design and its mechanical properties for injection wells. The simulation results indicated that thermal cooling might reduce near-wellbore stresses, which would increase the risk of integrity loss in casing/cement and cement/formation. The parametric study revealed that the risk of debonding and tensile failure would increase with increasing Young’s modulus and Poisson’s ratio of the cement under dynamic-loading conditions. In addition, low mechanical cement strength would increase the risk of shear failure in the cement.

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