Research

Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security

A geoscience project under Sandia's Energy, Climate, & Infrastructure Security mission area.

Problem

Fossil fuel consumption has caused a dramatic increase in atmospheric CO2 levels. Natural underground reservoirs of CO2 and the successful injection of CO2 into the subsurface for enhanced oil recovery indicate the feasibility of storing CO2 in geological formations. Carbon capture and sequestration could reduce CO2 emission by 11% in 2030 (EPRI 2009), a critical piece to reducing CO2 gas emissions.

Solution

The Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security (CFSES) is pursuing a scientific understanding of multiscale, multiphysics processes to ensure the safe and economically feasible storage of CO2 and other byproducts of energy production without harming the environment. The center is integrating small-scale laboratory data with modeling results and creating approaches for using this information in models that capture geological complexity, variability, and uncertainty.

Achievements

CFSES achievements include the following:

  • Measured the rate of CO2 dissolving inside a pore
  • Measured the impact of mineral surfaces on bacterial survival and the impact of biofilms on CO2 movement
  • Developed an upscaling method that incorporates detailed pore-scale information
  • Collected field data demonstrating that carbonate cementation obstructs permeability at the pore scale but does not obstruct leakage pathways at the field scale
  • Set up a database of geomechanical parameters for formations relevant to CO2 subsurface storage
  • Developed new methods for modeling the coupling of hydrological and mechanical processes in fractures to predict fracture growth
  • Developed new methods to increase the accuracy and speed of models for large-scale CO2 storage predictions
  • Built a structure that develops future scientific leadership through the active involvement of students and postdocs