Demand of high pressurized gas storage in underground rock caverns is increasing. Compressed natural gas (CNG) and compressed air energy storage (CAES) are one of the promising examples after since lined rock cavern (LRC) concept has been verified through in-situ pilot tests. Two key essential concerns of high pressured gas storage in underground rock caverns are mechanical stability of the cavern against high inner storage pressure and the risk of gas leakage from the caverns.

In this study, we introduce our results of numerical simulations so as to investigate the potential of monitoring for gas leakage at a pilot facility for CAES in underground LRCs. The pilot facility was constructed at a comparatively shallow depth of 100 m, compared to the previous cases with several hundreds of meters, aiming at validating the feasibility of the LRC storage concept in which inner sealing liners, consisting of steel plate and concrete linings, are installed inside the excavated rock caverns (KIGAM, 2011). Compressed air may leak through either initial defects of inner containment liners such as imperfect welding regions and in-situ construction joints of the liners, or through structurally damaged points of the liners during the CAES operation where compression and decompression of the caverns are necessarily repeated and their structural robustness can be deteriorated.

For this perspective, we carried out a coupled thermodynamic and geomechanical deformation analysis using TOUGH-FLAC simulator, and investigated the effectiveness of strain monitoring method in detecting mechanical failure of liners which may provide major pathways of air leakage. We therefore used an equivalent continuum model to relate the localized tangential strain to fracture permeability changes, which was developed in our early work (Rutqvist et al, 2012). In detecting and characterizing the leakage location, we tested a cross correlation technique using the synthetic pressure responses monitored in case of the failure of the inner liners.

From the investigations, we showed that tangential strain, rather than radial, monitoring especially at the inner face of the sealing liners can be more effective in detecting the mechanical failure of the liners. In localizing the leakage point, we noted that the interface between the inner liners and surrounding rock may not be perfectly bonded so as to increase permeability through which any leaking air pressure may migrate more dominantly. We also demonstrated that the cross correlation of the time histories of pressure measurement especially at these interfaces can be useful in identifying the leakage point. These results may provide useful information in overall design of monitoring and alarming system of our upcoming CAES pilot facilities.

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