Two-Phase Flow Mechanisms Controlling CO2 Intrusion into Shaly Caprock

I. R. Kivi, R. Y. Makhnenko, V. Vilarrasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Geologic carbon storage in deep saline aquifers has emerged as a promising technique to mitigate climate change. CO2 is buoyant at the storage conditions and tends to float over the resident brine jeopardizing long-term containment goals. Therefore, the caprock sealing capacity is of great importance and requires detailed assessment. We perform supercritical CO2 injection experiments on shaly caprock samples (intact caprock and fault zone) under representative subsurface conditions. We numerically simulate the experiments, satisfactorily reproducing the observed evolution trends. Simulation results highlight the dynamics of CO2 flow through the specimens with implications to CO2 leakage risk assessment in field practices. The large injection-induced overpressure drives CO2 in free phase into the caprock specimens. However, the relative permeability increase following the drainage path is insufficient to provoke an effective advancement of the free-phase CO2. As a result, the bulk CO2 front becomes almost immobile. This implies that the caprock sealing capacity is unlikely to be compromised by a rapid capillary breakthrough and the injected CO2 does not penetrate deep into the caprock. In the long term, the intrinsically slow molecular diffusion appears to dominate the migration of CO2 dissolved into brine. Nonetheless, the inherently tortuous nature of shaly caprock further holds back the diffusive flow, favoring safe underground storage of CO2 over geological time scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-798
Number of pages28
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Capillary breakthrough
  • Caprock sealing capacity
  • Geologic carbon storage
  • Molecular diffusion
  • Opalinus clay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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