From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California, December 5–9, 2005

The Frio Brine Pilot Experiment:
Managing CO2 Sequestration in a Brine Formation

Shinichi Sakurai, S. Hovorka, M. Holtz, and S. Nance


Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Frio Brine Pilot Experiment was begun in 2002. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), is thought to be a major cause of climate change. Sequestration of CO2 in saline aquifers below and separate from fresh water is considered a promising method of reducing CO2 emissions. The objectives of the experiment are to (1) demonstrate CO2 can be injected into a brine formation safely; (2) measure subsurface distribution of injected CO2; (3) test the validity of conceptual, hydrologic, and geochemical models, and (4) develop experience necessary for larger scale CO2 injection experiments. The Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) is the leading institution on the project and is collaborating with many national laboratories and private institutes. BEG reviewed many saline formations in the US to identify candidates for CO2 storage. The Frio Formation was selected as a target that could serve a large part of the Gulf Coast and site was selected for a brine storage pilot experiment in the South Liberty field, Dayton, Texas. Most wells were drilled in the 1950's, and the fluvial sandstone of the upper Frio Formation in the Oligocene is our target, at a depth of 5,000 ft. An existing well was used as the observation well. A new injection well was drilled 100 ft away, and 30 ft downdip from the observation well. Conventional cores were cut, and analysis indicated 32 to 35 percent porosity and 2,500 md permeability. Detailed core description was valuable as better characterization resulted in design improvements. A bed bisecting the interval originally thought to be a significant barrier to flow is a sandy siltstone having a permeability of about 100 md. As a result, the upper part of the sandstone was perforated. Because of changes in porosity, permeability, and the perforation zone, input for the simulation model was updated and the model was rerun to estimate timing of CO2 breakthrough and saturation changes. A pulsed neutron tool was selected as the primary wireline log for monitoring saturation changes, because of high formation water salinity, along with high porosity. Baseline logs were recorded as preinjection values. We started injection of CO2 on October 4, 2004, and injected 1,600 tons of CO2 for 10 days. Breakthrough of CO2 to the observation well was observed on the third day by geochemical measurement of recovered fluids, including gas analysis and decreased pH value. Multiple capture logs were run to monitor saturation changes. The first log run after CO2 breakthrough on the fourth day showed a significant decrease in sigma was recorded within the upper part of the porous section (6 ft) correlative with the injection interval. Postinjection logs were compared with baseline logs to determine CO2 distribution as CO2 migrated away from the injection point. The dipole acoustic tool was used to estimate saturation changes to improve geophysical data interpretation using VSP and crosswell tomography. Compared with the baseline log, wireline sonic log made 3 months later showed a weak and slower arrival of compressional wave over the perforated interval. Results from crosswell tomography data also showed changes in compressional velocity. Successful measurement of plume evolution documents an effective method to monitor CO2 in reservoirs and document migration.