Evaluating a Slightly Permeable Caprock in Aquifer Gas Storage: 1. Caprock of Infinite Thickness
- P.A. Witherspoon (U. Of California) | S.P. Neuman (U. Of California)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 1967
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 949 - 955
- 1967. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 5.10.2 Natural Gas Storage, 5.5.2 Core Analysis, 2.2.2 Perforating
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Evaluating the permeability of a caprock overlying a potential gas storage reservoir is a very critical problem. Pumping water from the reservoir can be used as an evaluation tool in analyzing this problem. Fluid level changes that occur in the aquifer as well as in the caprock can be measured with appropriately placed wells. If the leakage of water from the caprock into the aquifer is considerable, the effects will be apparent in the aquifer. If the leakage is slight, however, it will not be possible to detect it with certainty from observations in the aquifer alone. Fluid level measurements in the caprock must be relied upon, and improved methods of analyzing such effects have been developed which are based on a theoretical analysis of fluid flow through a caprock of infinite thickness. An example applying these methods to field data is discussed.
One of the most critical problems in evaluating an aquifer gas storage project is determining the tightness of the caprock overlying the formation to be used as the storage reservoir. A formation that has previously held oil or gas obviously has a suitable caprock, but an aquifer that contains only water gives no such assurance. A number of aquifer projects in the United States have been troubled by gas leaking out of the intended storage zone, and the ensuing difficulties have led to the development of new evaluation methods. One of these new methods is pump testing wherein water is removed from the aquifer at some controlled rate prior to injection of gas. This fluid withdrawal causes a pressure drop to move out through the aquifer for considerable distances in a matter of days or weeks. Depending on the properties of the caprock, a pressure transient can also pass upward (as well as downward) through the caprock layers adjacent to the aquifer. Thus, if the operator has placed observation wells at appropriate distances from the pumping well, the rapidity with which the pressure transients reach different points in the system can be used to investigate the fluid transport properties of both the aquifer and its caprock. The usefulness of pump testing has been recognized by groundwater hydrologists for many years as a means of determining the potential yield and properties of aquifers used in water supply. They have introduced the term "leaky aquifer" for a system in which an aquifer is overlain (or underlain) by semipermeable caprock layers. The ease with which water leaks into the aquifer during pumping can, of course, be very beneficial in bringing additional water to the pumped well. Hydrologists have therefore devoted considerable attention to this problem. From the gas storage standpoint, however, the tighter the caprock layers that overlie the intended storage reservoir, the better are the conditions for minimizing or eliminating any vertical migration of gas. Thus, after a suitable geologic structure has been found, the emphasis in aquifer storage projects is in determining that the caprock is tight. Attention has recently been focused on the use of pump testing as one approach to solving this problem. paper presents a further development on evaluating the permeability of a slightly leaky caprock when the caprock is of infinite thickness. From the practical standpoint, this means that the caprock layers are thick enough that pressure transients do not reach the outer boundaries of the system during the pumping test. In a subsequent paper, an analysis of the case where the caprock is of finite thickness will be presented.
PREVIOUS WORK ON LEAKY AQUIFERS
Jacob developed a partial differential equation describing the flow of water in an aquifer of permeability k that is overlain by a leaky caprock of permeability k'. Fig. 1 shows a schematic cross-section of the system under consideration. One of his principle assumptions was that if k »k', the direction of flow is essentially vertical in the caprock and horizontal in the aquifer. Neuman confirmed the validity of Jacob's assumption using a mathematical model. Another assumption was that a permeable source layer overlies the caprock (Fig. 1) and is able to maintain a constant hydraulic head at the upper boundary of the caprock. By neglecting the effects of compressibility within the caprock, Jacob developed a solution for bounded circular aquifer.
Later, Hantush and Jacob used the same assumptions to solve the case of an infinite radial aquifer that is pumped at a constant rate.
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