Surface monitoring of microseismicity at the Decatur, Illinois, CO2 sequestration demonstration site

Seismological Research Letters
By: , and 



Sequestration of CO2 into subsurface reservoirs can play an important role in limiting future emission of CO2 into the atmosphere (e.g., Benson and Cole, 2008). For geologic sequestration to become a viable option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, large-volume injection of supercritical CO2 into deep sedimentary formations is required. These formations offer large pore volumes and good pore connectivity and are abundant (Bachu, 2003; U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resources Assessment Team, 2013). However, hazards associated with injection of CO2 into deep formations require evaluation before widespread sequestration can be adopted safely (Zoback and Gorelick, 2012). One of these hazards is the potential to induce seismicity on pre-existing faults or fractures. If these faults or fractures are large and critically stressed, seismic events can occur with magnitudes large enough to pose a hazard to surface installations and, possibly more critical, the seal integrity of the cap rock.

The Decatur, Illinois, carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration site is the first, and to date, only CCS project in the United States that injects a large volume of supercritical CO2 into a regionally extensive, undisturbed saline formation. The first phase of the Decatur CCS project was completed in November 2014 after injecting a million metric tons of supercritical CO2 over three years. This phase was led by the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) and included seismic monitoring using deep borehole sensors, with a few sensors installed within the injection horizon. Although the deep borehole network provides a more comprehensive seismic catalog than is presented in this paper, these deep data are not publicly available. We contend that for monitoring induced microseismicity as a possible seismic hazard and to elucidate the general patterns of microseismicity, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) surface and shallow borehole network described below provides an adequate event detection threshold.

The formation targeted for injection is the Mount Simon Sandstone, which is laterally extensive, has high porosity and permeability and has the potential to host future CCS projects due to its favorable hydrologic characteristics and proximity to industrial sources of CO2 (Birkholzer and Zhou, 2009). At Decatur, CO2, a byproduct of ethanol production at the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) facility, is compressed to supercritical state and injected at 2.1 km depth into the 460 m thick Mount Simon Sandstone. This sandstone has varying properties, ranging from the lower, fine- to coarse-grained sandstone with high permeability and porosity, to the middle and upper Mount Simon, which consist of planar, cross-bedded layers of varied permeability and porosity (Leetaru and Freiburg, 2014). The changes in permeability and porosity within the Mount Simon Sandstone, due to depositional and diagenetic differences, create horizontal baffles, which inhibit vertical flow and restrict the injected CO2 to remain near the injection horizon (Bowen et al., 2011). The lowest portion of the Mount Simon Sandstone overlying the Precambrian rhyolite basement is the Pre-Mount Simon interval, generally < 15 m in thickness and composed of fine- to medium-grain size sandstone that is highly deformed (Leetaru and Freiburg, 2014). The basement rhyolite has a clayrich matrix and is fractured, with significant alterations within the fractures. The primary sealing cap rock is the Eau Claire Formation, a 100–150 m thick unit at a depth of roughly 1.69 km (Leetaru and Freiburg, 2014). The Maquoketa Shale Group and the New Albany Shale serve as secondary and tertiary seals at shallower depths of ∼820 and ∼650 m, respectively.

The ISGS managed the Illinois Basin–Decatur Project (IBDP), a three-year project beginning in November 2011, during which carbon dioxide was injected at a rate of ∼1000 metric tons per day until November 2014 (Finley et al., 2011, 2013). ADM manages the Illinois Industrial CCS (ICCS) project, which will inject ∼3000 metric tons/day into a second injection well starting in the summer of 2015.

The USGS began monitoring microseismicity with a 13- station seismic network at Decatur in July 2013 (Fig. 1). This network provides good detection capabilities and azimuthal (focal sphere) coverage for microseismicity with moment magnitudes (Mw) above about −0:5. Here, we report on 19 months of microseismicity monitoring at the Decatur CO2 sequestration site, which permits a detailed look at the evolution and character of injection-induced seismicity.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Surface monitoring of microseismicity at the Decatur, Illinois, CO2 sequestration demonstration site
Series title Seismological Research Letters
DOI 10.1785/0220150062
Volume 86
Issue 4
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Seismological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 6 p.
First page 1096
Last page 1101
Country United States
State Illinois
City Decatur
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