Research in simulation and risk assessment is focused on development of advanced simulation models of the subsurface and integration of the results into a risk assessment that includes both technical and programmatic risks.
Simulation models are critical for predicting the flow of the CO2 in the target formations, chemical changes that may occur in the reservoir, and geomechanical effects that increased pressures might have on the target formation and seal(s). Improved models that can simulate faults/fractures, the subsurface behavior of system fluids, and geochemical/mechanical/flow effects are needed. Research continues to develop innovative, advanced simulation models that can be readily integrated with advanced MVA technologies and risk assessment protocols. These models will include full coupling of multiple physical and chemical processes and describe the effects of the coupled processes on CO2 transport.
A secondary emphasis is risk assessment, which focuses on the development of effective risk assessment protocols and models that are flexible enough to be tailored to individual sequestration sites. Risk management plans generally include: (1) programmatic risks (including resource and management risks) that may inhibit project progress or costs and (2) sequestration (technical) risks inherent to the scientific and engineering objectives of a sequestration project. Programmatic risk is a mature field and many different industries bring significant experience. For technical sequestration risks, one approach that is gaining popularity is to develop a framework of specific risk features, events, and processes that could contribute to or prevent CO2 leakage. For a CO2 sequestration effort, a useful risk assessment should:
- Identify all vulnerabilities associated with the effort.
- Estimate the likelihood of damage associated with each vulnerability.
- Estimate the costs of recovery from the damage.
- Identify and summarize possible protective measures and their costs.
- Estimate savings that may result from better protective measures.
A complete risk assessment program will typically involve assembling a working group of scientists, engineers, and administrators to track details of both programmatic and technical risks and to develop risk mitigation approaches in real-time during project execution.