Injection well technology and field operations

So far in this chapter, we have considered only the nature of the storage site. But once a suitable site is identified, do we have the technology available to inject large quantities of CO2 (1-10 MtCO2 yr-1) into the subsurface and to operate the site effectively and safely? This section examines the issue of technology availability.

5.5.1 Injection well technologies

As pointed out earlier in this chapter, many of the technologies required for large-scale geological storage of CO2 already exist. Drilling and completion technology for injection wells in the oil and gas industry has evolved to a highly sophisticated state, such that it is now possible to drill and complete vertical and extended reach wells (including horizontal wells) in deep formations, wells with multiple completions and wells able to handle corrosive fluids. On the basis of extensive oil industry experience, the technologies for drilling, injection, stimulations and completions for CO2 injection wells exist and are being practised with some adaptations in current CO2 storage projects. In a CO2 injection well, the principal well design considerations include pressure, corrosion-resistant materials and production and injection rates.

The design of a CO2 injection well is very similar to that of a gas injection well in an oil field or natural gas storage project. Most downhole components need to be upgraded for higher pressure ratings and corrosion resistance. The technology for handling CO2 has already been developed for EOR operations and for the disposal of acid gas (Section 5.2.4.) Horizontal and extended reach wells can be good options for improving the rate of CO2 injection from individual wells. The Weyburn field in Canada (Box 5.3) is an example in which the use of horizontal injection wells is improving oil recovery and increasing CO2 storage. The horizontal injectors reduce the number of injection wells required for field development. A horizontal injection well has the added advantage that it can create injection profiles that reduce the adverse effects of injected-gas preferential flow through high-permeability zones.

The number of wells required for a storage project will depend on a number of factors, including total injection rate, permeability and thickness of the formation, maximum injection pressures and availability of land-surface area for the injection wells. In general, fewer wells will be needed for high-permeability sediments in thick storage formations and for those projects with horizontal wells for injection. For example, the Sleipner Project, which injects CO2 into a high-permeability, 200-m-thick formation uses only one well to inject 1 MtCO2 yr-1 (Korbol and Kaddour, 1994). In contrast, at the In Salah Project in Algeria, CO2 is injected into a 20-m-thick formation with much lower permeability (Riddiford et al., 2003). Here, three long-reach horizontal wells with slotted intervals over 1 km are used to inject 1 MtCO2 yr-1 (Figure 5.5). Cost will depend, to some degree, on the number and completion techniques for these wells. Therefore, careful design and optimization of the number and slotted intervals is important for cost-effective storage projects.

An injection well and a wellhead are depicted in Figure 5.20. Injection wells commonly are equipped with two valves for well control, one for regular use and one reserved for safety shutoff. In acid gas injection wells, a downhole safety valve is incorporated in the tubing, so that if equipment fails at the surface, the well is automatically shut down to prevent back flow. Jarrell et al. (2002) recommend an automatic shutoff valve on all CO2 wells to ensure that no release occurs and to prevent CO2 from inadvertently flowing back into the injection system. A typical downhole configuration for an injection well includes a double-grip packer, an on-off tool and a downhole shutoff valve. Annular pressure monitors help detect leaks in packers and tubing, which is important for taking rapid corrective action. To prevent dangerous high-pressure buildup on surface equipment and avoid CO2 releases into the atmosphere, CO2 injection must be stopped as soon as leaks occur. Rupture disks and safety valves can be used to relieve built-up pressure. Adequate plans need to be in place for dealing with excess CO2 if the injection well needs to be shut in. Options include having

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