This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper SPE 210256, “Wellbore-Integrity Impact on Carbon Leakage To Ensure Safe Geological Sequestration,” by Yanrui Ning, SPE, and Ali Tura, Colorado School of Mines. The paper has not been peer reviewed.


In the complete paper, poorly understood leakage potential is researched to quantify the carbon-leakage rate along one legacy well when carbon is injected into a storage formation in the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin. The authors’ results indicate that, for secure carbon sequestration, a good geological storage site should be kept away from wells that have a surface casing depth of 476 ft or shallower and that were drilled before 1994. The effective well permeability highly affects leakage rate, suggesting the importance of estimating the most-representative value or range for this parameter.


To estimate risks associated with geological carbon storage, the National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) Open-Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) tool used in this study presents a modeling approach that can couple efficient reservoir and wellbore components with low computational cost. Two wellbore model components, the open-wellbore model and the multisegmented-wellbore model, were studied to estimate the leakage rate during and after carbon-injection operations.

The effective permeability of the disturbed zone outside the well casing is an important parameter in leakage models. However, estimating a reasonable range for the effective well permeability of the disturbed zone remains a challenge.

For this study, a more than 1-sq-mile section in the Wattenberg Field of the DJ Basin was used. The goal was to quantify the leakage rate when carbon dioxide (CO2) escapes through a well 1,100 ft from the CO2 injector. First, a reservoir simulation model was built to reflect the pressure and saturation changes during the 30-year injection period and the 100-year postinjection period. This model, based on an ongoing field study, included the CO2 injector, the legacy well that is the potential pathway of CO2 leakage, and the carbon storage formation.

Study Area

Carbon Storage Potential in Colorado. The top-ranked CO2 emission facilities in Colorado are above the DJ Basin. According to carbon-emission data, 13 facilities in Colorado, including five coal plants, emitted more than 0.7 million tons of CO2 in 2020. All the coal plants are scheduled to be retired by 2034. All eight CO2 emission facilities are in the DJ Basin, with half of those in the Wattenberg Field. This makes the DJ Basin, especially the Wattenberg Field, a good target for carbon storage.

The stacked formations of oil and gas reservoirs and saline aquifers in the DJ Basin are potential CO2-storage formations. The current drilling activities with multistage fracture stimulation of horizontal wells target the oil- and gas-producing zones of Niobrara through Greenhorn. These oil and gas producers penetrate the shallower Pierre sandstone formation. This study quantifies the carbon-leakage risk when the Pierre sandstone is the carbon-storage formation and when one nearby Niobrara legacy well penetrates the storage formation and may behave as a potential leakage pathway.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.