This paper presents the initial results of a scientific drilling project to recover core and pressurized fluid samples from a natural CO2 reservoir, near the town of Green River, Utah. The drilling targeted a stacked sequence of CO2-charged Jurassic sandstone reservoirs and caprocks, situated adjacent to a CO2-degassing normal fault. This site has actively leaked CO2 from deep supercritical CO2 reservoirs at depth > 2 km within the basin for over 400,000 years. The project objectives were to gather samples to examine reactive fluid flow in the reservoirs, caprocks and faults, during migration of CO2 through the geological overburden from the deep supercritical CO2 reservoirs. Downhole fluid sampling and fluid element and isotope geochemistry show that the shallow reservoirs are being actively fed by inflow of CO2-saturated brines through the faults. Comparisons of shallow and deep fluid geochemistry suggest that: (i) CO2 and CO2-charged brines co-migrated from the deep reservoirs, (ii) the CO2-saturated brines migrating from depth interact with significant volumes of meteoric groundwater in aquifers in the shallower Permian and Jurassic sandstones, diluting the brine composition, and (iii) that a significant fraction of the CO2 migrating from depth is dissolved in these brine–meteoric water mixtures, with > 99% of the CO2 in fluids sampled from the shallow reservoirs being derived during fluid migration, after the fluids left their source reservoir. The 87Sr/86Sr ratio of the brine flowing through the faults is significantly elevated due to the addition of Sr from silicate mineral dissolution during fluid migration.
The association of bleached sandstones in the core with CO2-rich fluids supports interpretations from elsewhere that CO2-charged brines with CH4 or H2S reductants can dissolve hematite present within the sediment. Analysis of fluid geochemistry and sandstone petrology suggests that the CO2-rich fluids dissolve carbonate, hematite and gypsum in the reservoirs, as they flow away from the faults.
Element and isotope geochemistry of fluid samples from the drillhole and Crystal Geyser constrain mixing models which show that, within the Navajo Sandstone, the reservoir fluids are undergoing complex mixing of: (i) CO2-saturated brine inflowing from the fault, (ii) CO2-undersaturated meteoric groundwater flowing through the reservoir and (iii) reacted CO2-charged brines flow through fracture zones in the overlying Carmel Formation caprock, into the formations above. Such multi-scale mixing processes may significantly improve the efficiency with which groundwaters dissolve the migrating CO2.