Geochemical modeling of changes in shallow groundwater chemistry observed during the MSU-ZERT CO 2 injection experiment

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A field experiment involving the release of carbon dioxide (CO 2) into a shallow aquifer was conducted near Bozeman, Montana, during the summer of 2008, to investigate the potential groundwater quality impacts in the case of leakage of CO 2 from deep geological storage. As an essential part of the Montana State University Zero Emission Research and Technology (MSU-ZERT) field program, food-grade CO 2 was injected over a 30 day period into a horizontal perforated pipe a few feet below the water table of a shallow aquifer. The impact of elevated CO 2 concentrations on groundwater quality was investigated by analyzing water samples taken before, during, and following CO 2 injection, from observation wells located in the vicinity of the injection pipe, and from two distant monitoring wells. Field measurements and laboratory analyses showed rapid and systematic changes in pH, alkalinity, and conductance, as well as increases in the aqueous concentrations of naturally occurring major and trace element species.The geochemical data were evaluated using principal component analysis (PCA) to (1) understand potential correlations between aqueous species, and (2) to identify minerals controlling the chemical composition of the groundwater prior to CO 2 injection. These evaluations were used to assess possible geochemical processes responsible for the observed increases in the concentrations of dissolved constituents, and to simulate these processes using a multicomponent reaction path model. Reasonable agreement between observed and modeled data suggests that (1) calcite dissolution was the primary pH buffer, yielding increased Ca +2 concentrations in the groundwater, (2) increases in the concentrations of most major and trace metal cations except Fe could be a result of Ca +2-driven exchange reactions, (3) the release of anions from adsorption sites due to competitive adsorption of carbonate could explain the observed trends of most anions, and (4) the dissolution of reactive Fe minerals (presumed ferrihydrite and fougerite, from thermodynamic analyses) could explain increases in total Fe concentration. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.




Zheng, L., Apps, J. A., Spycher, N., Birkholzer, J. T., Kharaka, Y. K., Thordsen, J., … Trautz, R. C. (2012). Geochemical modeling of changes in shallow groundwater chemistry observed during the MSU-ZERT CO 2 injection experiment. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 7, 202–217.

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