This post was originally published by the Bureau of Economic Geology

Each year, the Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) holds two mid-year meetings for their industrial affiliates: one in January and one in August. These meetings cover the latest developments in carbon capture and storage research completed by the center’s scientists. The most recent meeting took place on August 25 and was attended by nearly 50 representatives from the GCCC’s sponsors.

To give a different look and feel to the poster session this summer, researchers used Prezi, an online presentation software, to create an interactive environment in place of the usual static poster content. During each of three time slots, grouped into three themes, researchers gave a technical brief followed by lengthy discussion. You can read an overview of each theme below.

Following the poster sessions, the researchers conducted a short feedback poll to glean insights for the next sponsor meeting. Researchers that serve as point liaisons with the various sponsor companies will follow up after the meeting to schedule more individualized meetings to further discuss research and future directions to pursue. GCCC researchers are looking forward to applying lessons learned to the next meeting.

2020 GCCC meeting banner


BIGFOOT refers to GCCC research into storage that has a large footprint. Enhanced tax credits for storage, combined with falling oil prices and public concerns over climate change, have spurred interest in near-term, moderate-scale storage projects on the Gulf Coast and longer-term interest in large-scale storage hubs capable of storing several megatons or more per year.

Work to date has demonstrated the Gulf Coast’s capacity for storing large volumes of CO2 at industrial rates, but the process of optimizing site selection for individual projects is still an open question, particularly for large-scale projects. BIGFOOT aims to address that gap by developing both a Gulf Coast prospect inventory and a set of broadly applicable characterization workflows that can reduce cost and increase confidence in siting very large-volume storage.

During the BIGFOOT presentation, Alex Bump gave an overview of the GCCC’s recent work on large-scale storage projects. He shared the center’s progress on adapting petroleum exploration workflows for carbon capture and storage (CCS) using layered risk maps calibrated with historic gas production to predict regional variations in storage performance of the Gulf Coast Oligocene and Miocene sections. He also presented promising storage play concepts and more detailed, site-specific characterizations.

Modeling and Monitoring

CO2 storage regulations require that storage operations are rigorously monitored to provide assurance of long-term storage integrity. To evaluate injection scenarios and estimate storage capacity and security, an accurate understanding of the subsurface migration of CO2 plume and its trapping mechanisms is essential. Through pore-scale studies, researchers have shown how dissolution of CO2 in brine contributes to the trapping of the advancing plume during the injection stage.

During the Modeling and Monitoring presentation, Sahar Bakhshian covered two topics: prediction of a CO2 plume migration and trapping using numerical models, and advanced field-scale monitoring techniques. Among other models and simulations, she presented an analytical solution to a basin-scale theoretical model for the migration and capillary trapping of CO2 plume in a sloping aquifer during the post-injection stage.

She also reviewed the recently deployed process-based technique for soil-gas monitoring at geologic CO2 storage sites that her team is working on, and demonstrated her team’s machine learning techniques for facilitating prediction of plume migration and their data-driven deep learning approach for anomaly detection in streaming environmental sensor data. 


The Ecosystem theme covered outreach and networking done by the GCCC for the energy ecosystem outside and within the field of carbon capture and storage. During the Ecosystem presentation, Katherine Romanak covered research and outreach relevant to the ever-changing CCS ecosystem. To reiterate the importance of stakeholder-oriented research, Romanak remarked:

“The ecosystem includes expanding our connections with new stakeholders such as the Gulf Coast Carbon Collaborative and the Carbon Utilization Research Council. We also have continued our previously successful activities, such as implementing the 4th International Workshop on Offshore CO2 storage and continuing our involvements with ISO standards. We are also embarking on targeted studies, including looking at the potential for recommissioning offshore infrastructure and providing screening of storage sites looking at fetch-trap pairs. 

“Looking to the future, we are developing an online CCS course for petroleum professionals who may need to retool their skills for application in CCS industry and applying our environmental monitoring techniques to satisfy the technically challenging requirements of the low carbon fuel standard CCS protocol.”

GCCC’s next sponsor meeting is scheduled for January 2021.

To become a sponsor member of the Gulf Coast Carbon Center, please contact Research Program Coordinator Emily Moskal.

Read more about the GCCC on the center’s website.

Current GCCC sponsor companies include Air Products, BHP, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Petra Nova Parish Holdings, Shell, and Total.

  • This post was originally published on the Bureau of Economic Geology’s homepage.

    Figure 1. (a and b) Direct pore-scale numerical simulations of two-phase flow in three-dimensional real-rock models using digital rock technology. (c and d, respectively) Invasion pattern of CO₂ injected into a water-wet and non-water-wet rock sample. CO₂ ganglia trapped in the pore space of (e) a water-wet sample and (f) a heterogeneous-wet sample.

    When two fluids migrate together though pores in rocks, complex interactions occur between the fluids and with the rock matrix. These complexities influence the amount of each fluid that can be injected into or extracted from the pores, and how far fluids will migrate. Our team at the Gulf Coast Carbon Center studies the geosystem response to carbon dioxide (CO₂) injected into the subsurface to avoid emissions into the atmosphere—carbon storage. A major theme of our research is how to best design and monitor injection to maximize confidence in the ability of storage sites to retain CO₂ over periods of hundreds to thousands of years.

    Buoyancy and viscous forces cause CO₂ to migrate away from the injection location, which increases the risk of its escape from the injection zone. We study the pore-scale processes that limit CO₂ plume migration and enhance storage capacity in saline aquifers. Two main processes effectively limit the plume extent: (1) capillary trapping, which happens when CO₂ pinches off and becomes immobilized in the pore space by capillary forces, and (2) dissolution trapping, where CO₂ gets dissolved and hence trapped in the resident brine. 

    Traditionally, observations of pore-scale processes have been made using core samples in the laboratory. However, many factors limit this traditional approach, such as the cost and long time necessary for each analysis and the relative unavailability of high-quality cores. The core samples themselves have heterogeneous textures, which lead to various pore-scale responses of the fluids. Given these limitations, correct scaling of small-scale forces is difficult in the laboratory. In addition, the use of real fluid requires high pressure conditions and the use of proxy fluids is imprecise.

    To resolve these issues, Sahar Bakhshian of the Gulf Coast Carbon Center spearheaded an innovation that creates pore-scale simulations of two-phase flow in real-rock models. By leveraging digital rock-scanning technology such as microtomographic imaging, our team can create a high-quality pore-scale model of any rock matrix. These high-resolution rock models allow many different numerical experiments to be run under controlled conditions. Exploiting parallel computing algorithms and high-performance computing platforms enables efficient computationally intensive simulations on high-resolution scanned rock images.

    Using machine learning, our scientists aim to upscale these various pore-scale processes to determine how two-phase flow interacts at a large scale with bedforms, reservoir architecture, and basin-scale depositional systems to ensure responsible CO₂ injection and storage. Furthermore, we are advancing toward validating our numerical models using fabricated micromodels. With these innovations, we can better assess how much of the injected CO₂ will be retained near the injection well and how quickly and widely CO₂ will move underground using targeted study sites like the Miocene-aged sandstone strata of the subsea Gulf of Mexico. This information is needed to design commercial injection projects to reduce atmospheric CO₂ emissions.


    Bakhshian, S., and Hosseini, S. A., 2019, Pore-scale analysis of supercritical CO₂-brine immiscible displacement under fractional-wettability conditions: Advances in Water Resources, v. 126, p. 96–107, doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2019.02.008.

    Bakhshian, S., Hosseini, S. A., and Lake, L. W., 2020, CO₂-brine relative permeability and capillary pressure of Tuscaloosa sandstone: effect of anisotropy: Advances in Water Resources, v. 135, no. 103464, 13 p., doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2019.103464.

    Bakhshian, S., Hosseini, S. A., and Shokri, N., 2019, Pore-scale characteristics of multiphase flow in heterogeneous porous media using the lattice Boltzmann method: Scientific Reports, v. 9, no. 3377, 13 p., doi:10.1038/s41598-019-39741-x.

    Treviño, R. H., and Meckel, T. A., eds., 2017, Geological CO₂ Sequestration Atlas of Miocene Strata, Offshore Texas State Waters: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology Report of Investigations No. 283, 74 p.

    Name of Project: Permanent Storage of CO₂—Contribution of Pore-Scale Modeling

    Project PI: Sahar Bakhshian

    Other key personnel: Tip Meckel, Susan Hovorka, Seyyed Hosseini, Ramón Treviño, Vanessa Nuñez-López, Alex Bump, Mike DeAngelo, Katherine Romanak, Dallas Dunlap, Iulia Olariu, Tucker Hentz, and students Melianna Ulfah, John Franey, Arnold Aluge, and Harry Hull

  • The International CCS Knowledge Centre has launched a new video series. The series, “Lead. Care. Adapt,” features 10-minute discussions with sustainability experts working to advance climate action including the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) around the world.

    In the second video in the series, GCCC’s Katherine Romanak talks about the opportunities for CCS in developing countries and explains the support available to these regions to help move projects forward. Watch the video to learn what the Gulf Coast Carbon Center is doing to to lead, care, and adapt today for a better tomorrow.  

    View the feature here:

    Find the entire series here.