Oxygen isotope exchange between H2O and CO2 at elevated CO2 pressures: implications for monitoring of geological CO2 storage

G Johnson, B Mayer

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Traditionally, the application of stable isotopes in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects has focused on δ13C values of CO2 to trace the migration of injected CO2 in the subsurface. More recently the use of δ18O values of both CO2 and reservoir fluids has been proposed as a method for quantifying in situ CO2 reservoir saturations due to O isotope exchange between CO2 and H2O and subsequent changes in δ18OH2O values in the presence of high concentrations of CO2. To verify that O isotope exchange between CO2 and H2O reaches equilibrium within days, and that δ18OH2O values indeed change predictably due to the presence of CO2, a laboratory study was conducted during which the isotope composition of H2O, CO2, and dissolved inorganic C (DIC) was determined at representative reservoir conditions (50 °C and up to 19 MPa) and varying CO2 pressures. Conditions typical for the Pembina Cardium CO2 Monitoring Pilot in Alberta (Canada) were chosen for the experiments. Results obtained showed that δ18O values of CO2 were on average 36.4 ± 2.2‰ (1σ, n = 15) higher than those of water at all pressures up to and including reservoir pressure (19 MPa), in excellent agreement with the theoretically predicted isotope enrichment factor of 35.5‰ for the experimental temperatures of 50 °C. By using 18O enriched water for the experiments it was demonstrated that changes in the δ18O values of water were predictably related to the fraction of O in the system sourced from CO2 in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions. Since the fraction of O sourced from CO2 is related to the total volumetric saturation of CO2 and water as a fraction of the total volume of the system, it is concluded that changes in δ18O values of reservoir fluids can be used to calculate reservoir saturations of CO2 in CCS settings given that the δ18O values of CO2 and water are sufficiently distinct.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1184-1191
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2011


  • oxygen isotope exchange
  • geological CO2 storage
  • carbon capture and storage


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