Acid-gas injection in the Alberta basin, Canada: a CO2-storage experience
Over the past decade, oil and gas producers in the Alberta basin have been faced with a growing challenge to reduce atmospheric emissions of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) that is produced from ‘sour’ hydrocarbon pools. Since surface desulphurization is uneconomic, increasingly operators are turning to acid-gas disposal by injection into deep geological formations. Acid gas, a mixture of hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide (H2S and CO2), is the by-product of ‘sweetening’ sour hydrocarbons. Although the purpose of the acid-gas injection operations is to dispose of H2S, significant quantities of CO2 are also being injected because it is uneconomical to separate the two gases. The acid-gas injection operations in the Alberta basin represent an analogue to geological sequestration of CO2. Large-scale injection of CO2 into depleted oil and gas reservoirs and into deep saline aquifers is one of the most promising methods of geological sequestration of CO2, and in this respect it is no different from acid-gas disposal operations. However, before implementation of greenhouse-gas geological sequestration, a series of questions need to be addressed; the most important ones relate to the short- and long-term fate of the injected CO2. Thus, the study of the acid-gas injection operations in Alberta provides the opportunity to learn about the safety of these operations and about the fate of the injected gases, and represents a unique opportunity to investigate the feasibility of CO2 geological sequestration.
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Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main compound identified as affecting the stability of the Earth’s climate. A significant reduction in the volume of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere is a key mechanism for mitigating climate change. Geological storage of CO2, or the injection and long-term stabilization of large volumes of CO2 in the subsurface in saline aquifers, in existing hydrocarbon reservoirs or in unmineable coal seams, is one of the more technologically advanced options available. A number of studies have been carried out and are reported here. They are aimed at understanding the safety, physical and chemical behaviour and long-term fate of CO2 when stored in geological formations. Until efficient, alternative energy options can be developed, geological storage of CO2, the subject of this volume, provides a mechanism to reduce carbon emissions significantly whilst continuing to meet the global demand for energy.