The Bureau of Economic Geology The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
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March 2015
Testing the controlled release system. From left to right, Jiemin Lu, Kate Hart (EchoGen), and Paul Cook (LBL). Photo courtesy Dr. Barry Freifeld.

On January 18–31, Bureau researchers Alex Sun and Jiemin Lu led a field experiment to demonstrate the efficacy of a harmonic pulse testing (HPT) technique for monitoring potential leakage from geologic carbon sequestration formations. HPT is a pressure-based active-monitoring technique for detecting the presence of leaks by modulating the injection pattern and monitoring observation-well pressure responses. Because an actual example of well failure did not exist, the field project created a controlled release in order to simulate one.

The study site included a CO2 injector and two observation wells located approximately 300 ft and 400 ft away. During the experiments, the observation wells were instrumented with high-resolution pressure gauges. Controlled CO2 venting was engineered from one of the observation wells to simulate worst-case leakage from the Test control center (photo courtesy Dr. Barry Freifeld)reservoir. Square pulses of different period lengths were imposed at the injector by maneuvering the wellhead choking valve. Preliminary analyses of pressure data show promising results.

The experiment was funded by DOE and NETL and coordinated with SECARB. It was conducted in collaboration with a team from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab funded under a different project.


On February 21–22, Dr. Tip Meckel led a coring operation on the inner Texas shelf off the shore of Galveston Island. The study site was previously imaged in 2013 by Meckel and his team, using the Bureau’s high-resolution 3D seismic (P-Cable). Seismic interpretations indicate a deep-seated gas chimney (above a nonproductive deep-faulted antiform) and identified a suite of shallow seismic anomalies (10–40 m below seafloor), interpreted to be shallow free-gas accumulations. The goal of the core sampling is to determine if the gas anomalies can be resolved with the fine spatial detail that is imaged in the seismic data. Twenty-three piston cores were located on and off the shallow seismic anomalies, with an average penetration depth, limited by the presence of a stiff clay layer, of 1.85 m (max 2.85). The lowermost sediments from piston cores will be processed for any gas content.

BEG coring operation on the inner Texas shelf off the shore of Galveston Island

Six cone penetrometer (CPT) profiles were obtained at similar depths for a subset of the piston-coring sites. CPT data provide tip resistance and friction, which can be used to infer fine-scale stratigraphy. The data set also provides important information for monitoring strategies for the future potential for offshore storage of CO2 in the stratigraphy beneath the offshore State waters. One goal of Meckel’s team is to attempt to correlate CPT data with seismic impedance, allowing geotechnical properties to be extrapolated throughout the shallowest interval of
the seismic volume. If the data collected are encouraging, the group will seek a deepwater Gulf of Mexico application to better identify and understand natural hydrocarbon migration systems and support geotechnical installation studies.

Vessel operation and coring expertise for the operation were provided by TDI-Brooks International, internationally recognized coring experts based out of College Station.
Preparing for an offhore coring operation on the inner Texas shelf

The Jackson School of Geosciences was a key sponsor of the University of Texas at Austin’s inaugural Energy Week event, and the Bureau had strong participation.  In a session entitled, “Oil and Gas Supply and Economics”, Center for Energy Economics chief energy economist Michelle Michot Foss provided the audience of industry representatives, faculty and students a comprehensive overview of international oil and gas supply, demand and business dynamics.  Her talk included discussion of global interactions and geopolitics, addressing a full picture of the hydrocarbon sector going forward.  Session panelist Svetlana Ikonnikova, co-principal investigator of the Bureau’s Shale Resource and Reserve Study, updated the audience on the methodology, models and key projections of the nearly complete study of the four main U.S. shale gas plays (Barnett, Fayetteville, Haynesville and Marcellus), and on the preliminary work her multidisciplinary team is conducting to study the production and reserves of the two primary U.S. shale oil plays (Eagle Ford and Bakken).

WSJ reporter Russell Gold (far right) moderates a panel on the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing, including from left: Ian Duncan, Senior Research Scientist, BEG; Julia Gale, Research Scientist, BEG; Gretchen Goldman, Lead Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists; Mukul Sharma, Professor, Cockrell School of Engineering; and Scott W. Tinker, State Geologist of Texas and Director, BEG

That evening, the Jackson School’s student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists hosted a Town Hall Meeting panel discussion of “The Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing.”  Moderated by renowned Wall Street Journal reporter and author Russell Gold, the panel included the Bureau’s director, Scott W. Tinker, and researchers Julia Gale and Ian Duncan.  The panel responded to a great number of questions previously submitted by the large audience of students, researchers and faculty.  The insights of the panelists covered a wide range of issues related to hydraulic fracturing which included its economic benefits, effects on communities, perceived environmental concerns, and future as an energy exploration technique.







 
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