My watch list
my.chemeurope.com  
Login  

Predicting the fate of underground carbon

25-Nov-2009

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new modeling methodology for determining the capacity and assessing the risks of leakage of potential underground carbon-dioxide reservoirs.

One strategy for mitigating greenhouse gases is to inject compressed carbon dioxide into natural aquifers made of permeable rock soaked with brackish salt water. Carbon dioxide is less viscous and less dense than the water, and, once injected, it rises to the top of the aquifer. The permeable rock usually lies underneath a dense, impermeable "cap rock," that traps the gas deep underground for long periods of time.

Cap rocks are often tilted, however, and as the carbon dioxide rises through the aquifer, it can slip out, eventually making its way back into the atmosphere. Engineers seek to avoid leakage by mapping potential reservoirs and using theoretical tools to predict carbon dioxide flow.

Now doctoral students Christopher MacMinn and Michael Szulczewski and Professor Ruben Juanes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new modeling methodology for determining the capacity of potential reservoirs and for assessing the risks of leakage.

The tool takes into account key aspects of the underlying physics to predict the shape and pattern of flow when carbon dioxide is injected into a deep underground aquifer.

"Our new modeling tool is analytical rather than numerical, which means it incorporates the three primary physical mechanisms by which carbon dioxide is trapped in briny substrate -- structural, capillary and dissolution trapping -- into a single, comprehensive mathematical expression that can be solved quickly," says MacMinn. "This makes it possible for us to alter key parameters, such as the aquifer permeability, the fluid viscosities or the tilt of the cap rock, and within seconds, predict how the plume of carbon dioxide will migrate through the subsurface."

Before, each parameter change in a numerical model added hours or days to the time it took a computer to model discrete sections of the substrate and pull all these together into a prediction of carbon dioxide behavior under those limited circumstances. Engineers would have needed to run dozens if not hundreds of these to incorporate all the likely parameter permutations, making this an infeasible means of assessment. The hope now is that engineers and geologists may be able to use this new modeling tool to quickly and inexpensively determine whether carbon dioxide would escape from a geological reservoir.

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about MIT
  • News

    Inside tiny tubes, water turns solid when it should be boiling

    It's a well-known fact that water, at sea level, starts to boil at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, or 100 degrees Celsius. And scientists have long observed that when water is confined in very small spaces, its boiling and freezing points can change a bit, usually dropping by aroun ... more

    New method for analyzing crystal structure

    A new technique developed by MIT researchers reveals the inner details of photonic crystals, synthetic materials whose exotic optical properties are the subject of widespread research. Photonic crystals are generally made by drilling millions of closely spaced, minuscule holes in a slab of ... more

    The science of friction on graphene

    Graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon in sheets just one atom in thick, has been the subject of widespread research, in large part because of its unique combination of strength, electrical conductivity, and chemical stability. But despite many years of study, some of graphene’s fundame ... more

  • Videos

    Plant-to-human communication

    MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone. Video: Melanie Gonick/MITInfrared/fluorescent images: Min Hao Wong more

    Particles attract across long distances

    MIT researchers have found a new kind of long-range interaction between particles, in a liquid medium, that is based entirely on their motions. Video: Melanie Gonick/MIT more

    Experimenting With Thermopower Waves

    “Experimenting with Thermopower Waves,” with MPC-CMSE 2015 Summer Scholar Stephen Gibbs and MIT Chemical Engineering graduate student Tianxiang (Albert) Liu. Recorded in the lab of Michael Strano, Carbon P. Dubbs Professor in Chemical Engineering, MIT. Recording and Editing, Denis Paiste, S ... more

More about American Institute of Physics
  • News

    Cicada wings inspire antireflective surfaces

    A team of Shanghai Jiao Tong University researchers has used the shape of cicada wings as a template to create antireflective structures fabricated with one of the most intriguing semiconductor materials, titanium dioxide (TiO2). The antireflective structures they produced are capable of su ... more

    Location matters in the self-assembly of nanoclusters

    Scientists at Iowa State University have developed a new formulation that helps to explain the self-assembly of atoms into nanoclusters and to advance the scientific understanding of related nanotechnologies. Their research offers a theoretical framework to explain the relationship between ... more

    Fish 'biowaste' converted to piezoelectric energy harvesters

    Large quantities of fish are consumed in India on a daily basis, which generates a huge amount of fish "biowaste" materials. In an attempt to do something positive with this biowaste, a team of researchers at Jadavpur University in Koltata, India explored recycling the fish byproducts into ... more

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE