Uncertainty in fault seal parameters: implications for CO2 column height retention and storage capacity in geological CO2 storage projects

Johannes M. Miocic, Gareth Johnson, Clare E. Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Faults can act as barriers to fluid flow in sedimentary basins, hindering the migration of buoyant fluids in the subsurface, trapping them in reservoirs, and facilitating the build-up of vertical fluid columns. The maximum height of these columns is reliant on the retention potential of the sealing fault with regards to the trapped fluid. Several different approaches for the calculation of maximum supported column height exist for hydrocarbon systems. Here, we translate these approaches to the trapping of carbon dioxide by faults and assess the impact of uncertainties in (i) the wettability properties of the fault rock, (ii) fault rock composition, and (iii) reservoir depth on retention potential. As with hydrocarbon systems, uncertainties associated with the wettability of a CO2–brine–fault rock system for a given reservoir have less of an impact on column heights than uncertainties of fault rock composition. In contrast to hydrocarbon systems, higher phyllosilicate entrainment into the fault rock may reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that can be securely retained due a preferred CO2 wettability of clay minerals. The wettability of the carbon dioxide system is highly sensitive to depth, with a large variation in possible column height predicted at 1000 and 2000 m of depth, which is the likely depth range for carbon storage sites. Our results show that if approaches developed for fault seals in hydrocarbon systems are translated, without modification, to carbon dioxide systems the capacity of carbon storage sites will be inaccurate and the predicted security of storage sites erroneous.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-967
Number of pages17
JournalSolid Earth Discussions
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019



  • sedimentary basins
  • fault seal analysis
  • CO2 trapping

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