Research Leader Mark Kelley is bringing the secrets of subsurface geology to light. A hydrogeologist on the Battelle Oil & Gas team, he provides technical expertise for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.
Over the last decade, Mark’s work has put him at the forefront of both EOR and CCS. He has played an integral role in several U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded demonstration projects for CCS, including the AEP Mountaineer demonstration project and the Battelle-led Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP).
As a hydrogeologist, Mark uses a variety of technologies to characterize subsurface formations and model how fluids move through them. For CCS, he applies his expertise to identify promising sites for carbon dioxide (CO2) storage, quantify their storage potential and monitor the injection process. His subsurface characterization work is also used to build models to inform EOR activities. He helps Battelle’s clients answer critical questions such as:
Will this subsurface formation provide a stable location for carbon storage?
How much CO2 could be stored in this formation?
How much oil remains in this reservoir for secondary recovery?
Are oil & gas production or CCS activities causing increased seismic activity?
Mark started his career in Battelle’s geotechnical group, where he worked on hydrogeology issues for a high-level nuclear waste disposal siting project. He then spent five years working with a groundwater consulting firm in Florida and Tennessee, focusing on projects related to groundwater resource development and contaminated groundwater remediation. He also worked with the Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport Tennessee. In 1993, he joined Battelle’s Environmental Remediation group, where he managed a variety of environmental remediation projects for government clients in the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DOE).
In 2008, Mark joined Battelle’s Energy group, where his primary focus was planning and executing field demonstration projects related to geologic storage of carbon dioxide emissions. More recently, the focus of the work by Battelle’s Energy group has expanded to include EOR, in particular studying how to store CO2 in conjunction with EOR. This new focus is an example of CCUS, or carbon capture, utilization and storage. Rather than simply finding locations to store captured CO2 underground, researchers are looking for ways to turn this potential pollutant into a useful commodity. For oil recovery, captured CO2 can be used instead of other types of fluids to repressurize depleted oil fields for secondary production. The hope is that this work will help to make CO2-based EOR more accessible for small and mid-sized oil & gas producers who may not have considered it as an option before.
Currently, Mark is working on the MRCSP project to evaluate the use of fiber-optic technologies for seismic imaging and other subsurface monitoring of CO2. He is also studying micro-seismicity in relation to CCS to better understand how CO2 injection may induce seismic activity. He explains, “Not all seismic activity is problematic. Monitoring technologies are available that can detect very small energy events equivalent to a pin drop. Our interest is understanding the nature of these ‘micro’ seismic events and how to avoid larger, more significant events.”
Mark holds a B.S.in Agriculture (Agronomy/Soil Science) and an M.S. in Geology (Hydrogeology) from The Ohio State University. He has also completed coursework in Reservoir Geomechanics from Stanford University.