COTEC (2019-2023 - extended due to Covid-19) is an interdisciplinary project that uses an area in Utah USA as a natural field laboratory to investigate how CO2 flows (migrates) and is stored in an area with known geology. This is of significant relevance for quality assurance of CO2 storage that is prepared in the North Sea. COTEC brings together Norwegian universities (UiO, UNIS) and institutes (NGI, NORSAR) as well as four US-based universities. In addition to research, COTEC has an education program with a PhD student, a Postdoc position and several MSc students.
The first datasets from the field area are becoming ready now, despite delays related to Covid-19. Travel restrictions associated with the pandemic made progress according to the plan impossible for the Norwegian partners in the project, while the American partners had fewer restrictions. Separately, our partners at Boise State University (Idaho) have collected data that has now been published and can be used by the rest of the project's researchers. In addition, drill cores from the field area have arrived in Norway after a successful drilling in early 2022. Their mapping of fracture systems in the underground has made it possible for the Norwegian partners to carry out field work in September 2022 - the final results will eventually be ready now towards the end of 2022.
Assessment of integrity of subsurface sequestration sites holding CO2 has been highlighted by the Smeaheia and Johansen prospect CO2 storage projects. We target a better understanding of seepage processes, where geological-geomechanical elements control flow across sealing rock units. Natural seeps are the easy accessible onshore counterparts to seismic chimneys; we will explore a natural CO2 leakage site (Utah, USA) to investigate the geological footprint and geophysical signatures of an active CO2 seal bypass systems in a new, truly novel approach, expanding on several past and ongoing projects. Observed flow and seep patterns, diagenetic status and rock strength assessments, summarized in 3D geo- and simulation models, will be used to investigate the geophysical signatures of CO2 flow along faults, by undertaking: (i) High-resolution outcrop studies, (ii) geomechanical analyses of fault materials acquired by drilling, (iii) 2D seismic investigation across the fault, (iv) monitoring of micro-seismic activity, (v) a synthetic seismic study. This integrated geological-geomechanical-geophysical-modelling bridges into de-risking of commercial storage projects, with significant learning potential of high relevance for application in North Sea storage projects.