Applicability of vertical-equilibrium and sharp-interface assumptions in CO2 sequestration modeling

Benjamin Court, Karl W. Bandilla, Michael Anthony Celia, Adam Janzen, Mark Dobossy, Jan M. Nordbotten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Analysis of geological sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) requires mathematical models of different complexity to answer a range of practical questions. A family of vertically-integrated models of intermediate complexity can be derived by assuming that the strong buoyant drive in the system leads to vertical segregation of the injected CO2 and resident brine on a time scale that is fast enough to model the system as being stratified and in vertical-equilibrium. These models range from vertically-integrated numerical models which include capillary forces via mathematical reconstruction, to analytical models assuming a sharp-interface and homogeneous formation parameters. This paper investigates the limits of numerical vertical-equilibrium models and the more restricted vertical-equilibrium sharp-interface models via direct comparisons with a homogeneous three-dimensional model, exploring the impacts of injection rate, injection time, and formation characteristics. We use the commercial simulator ECLIPSE for the three-dimensional model. Our results demonstrate that the applicability of a vertically-integrated modeling approach to CO2 sequestration depends on the time scale of the vertical brine drainage within the plume, relative to the time scale of the simulation. The validity of the sharp-interface assumption is shown to depend on the spatial scale of the capillary forces, which drive the thickness of the capillary transition zone. A finite-capillary-transition-zone vertically-integrated numerical model with saturation reconstruction closely matches results from the three-dimensional model (ECLIPSE) including capillary pressure as long as the segregation time scales are respected. Overall, our results demonstrate that vertically-integrated and sharp-interface models are useful and accurate when applied within the appropriate length and time scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-147
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control
StatePublished - Sep 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


  • Capillary pressure
  • Sharp-interface assumption
  • Two phase flow modeling
  • Vertical-equilibrium assumption


Dive into the research topics of 'Applicability of vertical-equilibrium and sharp-interface assumptions in CO2 sequestration modeling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this