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Storing CO2 in geological reservoirs

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion constitute a serious environmental hazard. European scientists investigated the feasibility of capturing and storing CO2 in geological reservoirs under the sea.
Storing CO2 in geological reservoirs
World projections of energy use indicate a long-term dependence on fossil fuels. However, increasing CO2 emissions may prove catastrophic for the planet’s sustainability unless drastic measures are taken. Carbon sequestration refers to the removal of CO2 from flue gases and its storage in underground reservoirs. In particular, the rocks underneath the North Sea have a very large theoretical capacity for storing CO2.

Having this in mind, the EU-funded ‘Network of Excellence on geological sequestration of CO2’ (CO2GEONET) project worked on previous and existing European research and development (R&D) in the field to explore the feasibility of CO2 underground storage. A consortium of 13 research institutes across Europe with an established history of research in geological storage joined forces to investigate various aspects of CO2 sequestration.

As a first step, project partners monitored airborne CO2 levels and began to investigate CO2 leakage as well as the ecosystem’s responses to geologically-sourced CO2. This included marine, freshwater and terrestrial settings alongside human populations who live in close proximity to CO2 seeps. The monitoring techniques were also tested and calibrated to obtain the most reliable CO2 leakage measurements. Marine experiments were also conducted to assess the effects of CO2 exposure on benthic zone organisms and seabed sediments. Overall, the consortium covered a wide range of geological storage research aspects from reservoir performance and integrity, to potential leakage pathways to the surface and their environmental impact. To facilitate the network’s research and as future infrastructure, a benthic chamber was built for CO2 monitoring under the sea.

A great achievement of the CO2GEONET project was the creation of the Seismic database Network Access Point (SNAP) for sharing and processing information through the Internet.

The CO2GEONET consortium accomplished the integration and strengthening of research on CO2 geological sequestration in Europe. It provided invaluable knowledge on CO2 storage in geological reservoirs and enabled public confidence in this technology. Implementation of the study findings in CO2 capture will have significant implications for the emerging low-carbon energy market and the environment.

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