Burying industrial emissions may abate atmosphere pollution

Image source: US Department of Energy
Image source: US Department of Energy
A new study by MIT scientists examines the process of safely storing industrial CO2 emissions in local bedrock for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years.

The process, known as carbon sequestration, involves building power plants near briny porous bedrock sites and redirecting the plants’ CO2 emissions underground rather than into the atmosphere. The gas would be trapped as tiny bubbles inside the porous spaces of the bedrock, and could remain that way indefinitely.

CO2 (carbon dioxide) is considered one of the primary gases contributing to climate change due to the Greenhouse Effect.
Excess gases in Earth’s atmosphere prevent heat produced from sunlight from escaping back into space. Human activity is thought to be a major contributor to the excess gases.

One of the major fears to this method is that the carbon dioxide could escape from its underground storage and leak back into the atmosphere. But MIT professor Ruben Juanes, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who led the study claims otherwise.

“We have shown that this is a much safer way of disposing of CO2 than previously believed, because a large portion--maybe all--of the CO2 will be trapped in small blobs in the briny aquifer. Based on experiments and on the physics of flow and transport, we know that the flow of the CO2 is subject to a safety mechanism that will prevent it from rising up to the top just beneath the geologic cap.”

According to the study, compressed CO2 could be injected underground into saltwater-saturated layers of sandstone or limestone. The buoyant gas would then form a plume and begin rising through the porous layers of rock.

"As it rises, the CO2 plume leaves a trail of immobile, disconnected blobs, which will remain trapped in the pore space of the rock, until they slowly dissolve and, on an even larger timescale, react with rock minerals," Juanes explained.
Although Juanes’s study only examined deep saline aquifers, other geological formations, such as unmined coal seams and depleted gas and oil fields, have been considered as possible storage sites for carbon sequestration.
Industrial affiliates of the Petroleum Research Institute at Stanford funded the study, and the results appeared in a recent issue of Water-Resources Research .

More Information
MIT story
Carbon Sink and Sequestration
More on Carbon Sequestration
Carbon dioxide emission trends
Evidence for Global Warming
Effects of Global Warming

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The Mesabi Project which is in the process of planning to build a coal gasification power plant off Highway 7 north of Grand Rapids supposedly will use this technology. BUT, it is not being planned to be built on porous rock but hard, non porous rock. Because of this they are simply bypassing the CO2 recovery step. Why should this technology be allowed to collect grant money to build this environmentally detrimental plant when it is not even following its original plan? Money and politics

posted on Thu, 03/01/2007 - 2:18pm

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