First Phase of SOSRA Project Successfully Completed

Dr. Nino Ripepi

A project aimed at providing high quality assessment of potential carbon dioxide storage sites has successfully reached the end of its first Phase.

The Southeast Offshore Storage Resource Assessment, or SOSRA, is a 3-year research initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the Southern State Energy Board (SSEB). The aim of the project is to provide high-quality assessment of prospective carbon dioxide (CO2) storage resources off the eastern Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Mid and South Atlantic seaboards. Virginia Tech’s Mining and Minerals Engineering Department and the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research were awarded $1,089,999 in funding to examine the Mid-Atlantic planning area. The research effort is led by Principal Investigator, Dr. Nino Ripepi, and Dr. Michael Karmis and Dr. Ellen Gilliland, who serve as Co-PIs.

The project recently reached the end of Phase I, and the team was successfully able to provide an overview of the basic geological framework of the Mid-Atlantic region while also defining key planning areas. To achieve this task, existing geological and geophysical data, such as seismic reflection, geophysical well logs and supporting reservoir data, all collected in the 1970s and 80s as part of Oil and Gas Exploration Campaign, were analyzed. The analysis of the quality of the data, and more specifically the resolution of the data, is crucial to identify the boundaries of potential CO2 reservoirs and obtain a reliable volumetric calculation to predict the storage capacity for each potential reservoir. The vertical resolution and depth penetration of the data need to be within a “good-enough” range to be useful in the study since the geological sequestration of CO2 can only occur and be stable under specific thermodynamic conditions. CO2 is typically injected at a supercritical state, so in order for it to reach its critical temperature and pressure, the reservoir should be at a depth greater than 800 meters below the seafloor.

A total of 27 surveys were assessed for the first phase of the project, consisting of over 1,000 lines surveyed over approximately 100,000 line-kilometers (or 60,000 line-miles). Five exploration wells were added to establish strong well-seismic line ties. The figure below displays the data included in the SOSRA study. As a result of their research, the team has identified three zones of interest in the Mid-Atlantic region for the potential sequestration of CO2, which are being further investigated: the Baltimore Canyon Trough, the Carolina Trough and the lower Potomac Aquifer. In order to identify geological formations for carbon storage within these locations, data is currently being interpreted using standard geophysical procedures such as identifying faults and picking stratigraphic markers. The team plans to have completed the interpretation of the data and begin reservoir characterization by September.

The figure shows formations that have been identified so far which have the potential to serve as reservoirs for CO2 sequestration. The green boundary depicts the Mid-Atlantic study area.