My watch list
my.chemeurope.com  
Login  

Carbon capture has a sparkling future

03-Apr-2009

New research shows that for millions of years carbon dioxide has been stored safely and naturally in underground water in gas fields saturated with the greenhouse gas. The findings bring carbon capture and storage a step closer.

Politicians are committed to cutting levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to slow climate change. Carbon capture and storage is one approach to cut levels of the gas until cleaner energy sources are developed.

But the risks around the long-term storage of millions of cubic metres of carbon dioxide in depleted gas and oil fields has met with some concern, not least because of the possibility of some of the gas escaping and being released back to the atmosphere. Until now, researchers couldn't be sure how the gas would be securely trapped underground.

Naturally-occurring carbon dioxide can be trapped in two ways. The gas can dissolve in underground water – like bottled sparkling water. It can also react with minerals in rock to form new carbonate minerals, essentially locking away the carbon dioxide underground.

Previous research in this area used computer models to simulate the injection of carbon dioxide into underground reservoirs in gas or oil fields to work out where the gas is likely to be stored. Some models predict that the carbon dioxide would react with rock minerals to form new carbonate minerals, while others suggest that the gas dissolves into the water. Real studies to support either of these predictions have, until now, been missing.

To find out exactly how the carbon dioxide is stored in natural gas fields, an international team of researchers - led by the University of Manchester and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada - uniquely combined two specialised techniques. They measured the ratios of the stable isotopes of carbon dioxide and noble gases like helium and neon in nine gas fields in North America, China and Europe. These gas fields were naturally filled with carbon dioxide thousands or millions of years ago.

They found that underground water is the major carbon dioxide sink in these gas fields and has been for millions of years.

Dr Stuart Gilfillan, the lead researcher who completed the project at the University of Edinburgh said: "We've turned the old technique of using computer models on its head and looked at natural carbon dioxide gas fields which have trapped carbon dioxide for a very long time."

"By combining two techniques, we've been able to identify exactly where the carbon dioxide is being stored for the first time. We already know that oil and gas have been stored safely in oil and gas fields over millions of years. Our study clearly shows that the carbon dioxide has been stored naturally and safely in underground water in these fields."

Professor Chris Ballentine of the University of Manchester, the project director, said: "The universities of Manchester and Toronto are international leaders in different aspects of gas tracing. By combining our expertise we have been able to invent a new way of looking at carbon dioxide fields. This new approach will also be essential for monitoring and tracing where carbon dioxide captured from coal-fired power stations goes when we inject it underground – this is critical for future safety verification."

Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar of the University of Toronto and co-author of the study hopes the new data can be fed into future computer models to make modelling underground carbon capture and storage more accurate.

Original publication: Nature 2009

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about University of Manchester
  • News

    A Rack for Ammonia

    Handling, storing, and shipping of ammonia requires costly equipment and special precautions because of its inherent corrosiveness and toxicity. Scientists in Manchester, UK, have found that a metal–organic framework, MFM-300(Al), a porous solid, not only effectively filters harmful nitroge ... more

    World's first 'molecular robot' capable of building molecules

    Scientists at The University of Manchester have created the world's first 'molecular robot' that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules. The tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimetre in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, usin ... more

    Graphene sieve turns seawater into drinking water

    Graphene-oxide membranes have attracted considerable attention as promising candidates for new filtration technologies. Now the much sought-after development of making membranes capable of sieving common salts has been achieved. New research demonstrates the real-world potential of providin ... more

  • Videos

    What is graphene?

    What is graphene? Graphene is the world's first 2D material which was initially isolated in 2004. It was discovered after scientists at The University of Manchester separated one atomic layer of graphite using simple sticky tape. This short animation takes a look at how graphene was isolate ... more

More about University of Edinburgh
More about University of Toronto
  • News

    Advance ability to control chemical reactions

    Scientists at the University of Toronto have found a way to select the outcome of chemical reaction by employing an elusive and long-sought factor known as the 'impact parameter'. The team of U of T chemists, led by Nobel Prize-winning researcher John Polanyi, have found a means to select t ... more

    Artificial photosynthesis gets big boost from new catalyst

    A new catalyst created by U of T Engineering researchers brings them one step closer to artificial photosynthesis -- a system that, just like plants, would use renewable energy to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into stored chemical energy. By both capturing carbon emissions and storing energy ... more

    Printable solar cells just got a little closer

    A U of T Engineering innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Dr. Hairen Tan and his team have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alterna ... more

More about Natural Environment Research Council
  • News

    Innovations in soil science will grow the solutions to global food security

    A report published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) says that innovative research in soil science will be fundamental in overcoming the growing threat of global food and fuel crop shortages as the world’s population continues to increase. Food security is one of the great global chal ... more

    'Chemical equator' discovery will aid pollution mapping

    Scientists at the University of York have discovered a 'Chemical Equator' that divides the polluted air of the Northern Hemisphere from the largely uncontaminated atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers from the University's Department of Chemistry found evidence for an atmospher ... more

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