Predicting salt intrusion into freshwater aquifers resulting from CO2 injection – A study on the influence of conservative assumptions

Lena Walter, Philip John Binning, Holger Class

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Brine migration and saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers are among the hazards which may result from injecting CO2 into deep saline formations. Comprehensive risk assessment should include estimates of the salinization of freshwater aquifers, preferably based on numerical simulation results. A crucial task is to choose an appropriate conceptual model and relevant scenarios. Overly conservative assumptions may lead to estimation of unacceptably high risks, and thus prevent the implementation of a CO2 storage project unnecessarily. On the other hand, risk assessment should not lead to an underestimation of hazards. This study compares two conceptual model approaches for the numerical simulation of brine-migration scenarios through a vertical fault and salt intrusion into a fresh water aquifer. The first approach calculates salt discharge into freshwater using an immiscible two-phase model with constant salinity in the brine phase. The second approach takes compositional effects into account and considers salinity as a variable parameter in the water phase. A spatial model coupling is introduced to adapt the increased model complexity to the required complexity of the physics. The immiscible two-phase model is applied in the CO2 storage reservoir and spatially coupled to a single-phase (water) two-component (water, salt) model, where salt mass fraction is a variable. A Dirichlet–Neumann technique is used for the coupling conditions at the interface of the two models. The results show that the predicted salt discharges can vary by orders of magnitude depending on the choice of the model. The implications of the results for risk assessment are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue numberPart C
Pages (from-to)543-554
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • CO2 storage
  • Salt intrusion
  • Uncertainty
  • Conceptual models

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