Carbon capture and storage may have the potential for inducing seismic events

From the National Academies of Sciences News:

Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Low Risk for Causing Earthquakes, But Risks Higher for Wastewater Injection Wells

WASHINGTON — June 15th — Hydraulic fracturing has a low risk for inducing earthquakes that can be felt by people, but underground injection of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing and other energy technologies has a higher risk of causing such earthquakes, says a new report from the National Research Council.  In addition, carbon capture and storage may have the potential for inducing seismic events, because significant volumes of fluids are injected underground over long periods of time.  However, insufficient information exists to understand the potential of carbon capture and storage to cause earthquakes, because no large-scale projects are as yet in operation.  The committee that wrote the report said continued research will be needed to examine the potential for induced seismicity in large-scale carbon capture and storage projects.

The report examines the potential for energy technologies — including shale gas recovery, carbon capture and storage, geothermal energy production, and conventional oil and gas development — to cause earthquakes.  Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, extracts natural gas by injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals in short bursts at high pressure into deep underground wells.  The process cracks the shale rock formation and allows natural gas to escape and flow up the well, along with some wastewater.  The wastewater can be discarded in several ways, including injection underground at a separate site.  Carbon capture and storage, also known as carbon capture and sequestration, involves collecting carbon dioxide from power plants, liquefying it, and pumping it at high rates into deep underground geologic formations for permanent disposal.  Geothermal energy harnesses natural heat from within the Earth by capturing steam or hot water from underground.

Although induced seismic events associated with these energy technologies have not resulted in loss of life or significant damage in the United States, some effects have been felt by local residents and have raised concern about additional seismic activity and its consequences in areas where energy development is ongoing or planned.  While scientists understand the general mechanisms that induce seismic events, they are unable to accurately predict the magnitude or occurrence of these earthquakes due to insufficient information about the natural rock systems and a lack of validated predictive models at specific energy development sites.

The factor most directly correlated with induced earthquakes is the total balance of fluid introduced or removed underground, the committee said.  Because oil and gas development, carbon capture and storage, and geothermal energy production each involve net fluid injection or withdrawal, all have at least the potential to induce earthquakes that could be felt by people.  However, technologies designed to maintain a balance between the amounts of fluid being injected and withdrawn, such as most geothermal and conventional oil and gas development, appear to produce fewer induced seismic events than technologies that do not maintain fluid balance.

A number of federal and state agencies have regulatory oversight related to different aspects of underground injection activities associated with energy technologies.  Responses from these agencies to energy development-related seismic events have been successful, the report says, but interagency cooperation is warranted as the number of earthquakes could increase due to expanding energy development.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter.  Panel members, who serve pro bono as volunteers, are chosen by the Academies for each study based on their expertise and experience and must satisfy the Academies’ conflict-of-interest standards.  The resulting consensus reports undergo external peer review before completion.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org/studycommitteprocess.pdf.  A committee roster follows.

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Pre-publication copies of Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies is available from the National Academies Press

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50 thoughts on “Carbon capture and storage may have the potential for inducing seismic events

  1. I still maintain that those triggered quakes are in fact beneficial as they remove stress from geological formations that would otherwise build up more and be increasingly damaging when they’d finally discharge naturally.

  2. Quite possible and some luck the first really big CO2 induced shake could be at the Norwegian Carbon capture site. It’s the world’s largest carbon capture lab opens in Norway to fight global warming … This would be poetic justice, as these fools are some of the leading pushers of the Global warming hoax.
    Just sayin.

  3. Reminds me of one of the arguments against fracking for natural gas. I wonder what the same people have to say about fracking for carbon storage. He, he. :-)

  4. Storage? Haven’t they ever heard of “catch and release?” We’re at dangerously low levels of CO2 as it is.

  5. Well; (pun intended) these idiots don’t seem to understand that “carbon sequestration” , is really OXYGEN sequestration.

    I haven’t recently looked at the CO2 phase diagram, but when I hear people talking about “liquid CO2″ being stored underground (which I assume means ground on this here planet we live on), I first have nightmares about the very famous carbon dioxide “snow”, known to inhabit Antarctica; which Phil graciously put the Kibosh on; but then I wonder where abouts in the CO2 phase diagram does liquid CO2 cohabitate with geothermal heating.

    Also I am familiar with the street game played by PG&E (local elegas util), and AT&T (local wiki/goggle/yoohoo conduit), along with the water district (we don’t have water in California, so it comes in pipes), along with the loo adieu folks; called, “This gig ; excuse me that’s dig, is on me.” where grown men compete, to be the last person to dig up the street to bury their transmission systems.

    So who’s going to ensure that PG&E, who prefer to bl*w up their pipes instead of digging them up, won’t go digging into the liquid CO2 warehouse “underground” as they say. All those diggers keep on rediscovering old people, they didn’t know were there, or finding some mammoth or dire wolf bone, which really can hold up the dig for generations.

    No let’s not bury any more stuff. We continue to store hot nuclear fuel on top of the ground, despite the billions of dollars spent and committed to have a better place to put that; I’m for keeping the CO2 where we can keep an eye on it, right over our heads.

  6. Extraction of ground water from an aquifer can cause seismicity.

    Injection of ground water for replenishment of an aquifer can cause seismicity.

    Impoundment of large quantities of water behind a dam can cause seismicity.

    What else is new? Did they really need to do this report?

  7. Can you imagine the carbon footprint of the sequestering company that first experiences a major mishap and an entire year’s worth of CO2 escapes back into the atmosphere! … Oh, I forgot. Such a ‘disaster’ will not be reported.

  8. If this is right, then how can this not be a good thing?
    As continental plate move into and slide past each other, earthquakes are the inevitable result.
    It is way better to have several small ones than one biggie.

  9. CO2 is best kept where it can do the most good… in our atmosphere. People who think differently are just conforming to the greatest human delusion. They just cannot pause chewing their cuds long enough to realize it. GK

  10. Just a thought here. What would be the rate / ratio of expansion of CO2 as it would transform from a liquid to a gas? I don’t have a reference handy but would render a WAG of 500/1. Regardless of the ratio, an incompressible liquid with a boiling point greater than the underground temp of the formation it was stored in would require a force (pressure) to move it out of the formation it was placed in. Now a liquified gas (CO2) with a boiling point less than the temperature of the formation in which it was stored would flow in a gaseous state for quite a while should it find a point of relief to another another lower pressure formation (aquifer) or to the atmosphere.

    Also should there be a major geological shift (earthquake) that would increase the volume of the stored CO2 formation then would the properties of an expanding gas or conversion from liquid to gas provide continuous force and make the geological movement self sustaining in a sense? Bigger earthquake?

    I may not have explained this in exactly the correct physics terms but I think I have made my point here. I don’t have the time or motivation at this moment to compile the facts but someone else may already know the answer and share the concept with us.

  11. Here’s a note I got from a geologist in Oklahoma after a quake there: ( Note: These are huge water volumes, far greater than any frac, or 1,000 fracs would involve)

    “I heard the rumble that actually did turn out to be the earthquake,but needed ten seconds to figure out which it was. Not a big deal. The newskeeps trying to blame it on fracs.

    No, it isn’t a frac, but we did notice that they are pumping mind boggling amounts of water (over 10,000 barrels water per day perwell) in hundreds of wells near epicenter/fault (huge water reinjection sweep of old watered-out field recovering about 2% oil cut). Somebody from the USGS did say that this type of water injection could cause up to a 5 magnitude quake, however, nobody seems to be listening to him. The misinformed public keeps blaming it on fracs”

  12. “George E. Smith; says:
    June 17, 2012 at 8:55 am
    Well; (pun intended) these idiots don’t seem to understand that “carbon sequestration” , is really OXYGEN sequestration.”

    i have heard this before, putting the focus on the oxygen being sequestered, somehow depleting the oxygen supply. (BTW, I am not contesting the main point of not putting the stuff away, just the technical point of removing oxygen with the sequestration of CO2.)

    When carbon is combined with oxygen, it releases energy and assumes a lower energy state than the reactants. So it will remain as CO2 or combine to an even lower energy state as a carbonate, CO3–. So, no matter where you put it the oxygen in CO2 or a carbonate, it is unavailable to react to release the O2 at temperatures available in the environment. So, oxygen, being unavailable to return to O2, is essentially “sequestered” even if it is in the atmosphere. In terms of its function as a supporter of life, it really doesn’t matter where it goes, on top of or under the ground.

  13. Yeah, we had some induced seismicity here in northeast Ohio. Had a 4.0 tremor on New Year’s Eve at a now shuttered deep injection well… shook things up pretty good. These CO2 wells will only make things worse. I don’t know why we’d think of injecting CO2 underground though. It’s the backbone of all life on earth and responsible for moderating our climate! I also hear it makes really good plant food, but what do I know?

  14. i suspect the effect is minimal and likely beneficial. Yes, it may be friction is reduced, but as was said above, better to get rid of it now. The injections would be very shallow, geologically, and thus the quake mild. That having been said, the whole idea of sequestration is idiocy. Pure nonsense. Release the CO2 and let the plants grow.

  15. George E. Smith; says:
    June 17, 2012 at 8:55 am

    “Well; (pun intended) these idiots don’t seem to understand that “carbon sequestration” , is really OXYGEN sequestration.”
    _________________________________
    Carbon capture philosophy is because of additional CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

  16. There is no creditalable experiment that proves that the “greenhouse gas effect exists! To invest millions of dollars to sequester CO2 is absolute stupidity
    Anthony Watts will not post the references tothe experiment that proves that the “greenhouse gas effect” does not exist.

  17. How stupid can these misfits be? All that energy to bury a harmless substance…co2. The world is upside-down!

  18. Back in the 1960s the US Army were required as part of the Arms Reduction Treaty, to get rid of gases used for chemical warfare. They did this by injecting them deep, 12,000 feet as I recall, in to the ground near Denver, Colorado. A local geologist noticed an increase in micro earthquakes and showed how they related directly to the injections. It was proposed that this process could be used to trigger small earthquakes and thus elevate the pressure building to a much larger earthquake.

    This led to concerns about legal liability, which was discussed by geologists. Who paid for damage if the earthquake was bigger than anticipated? What happened if they removed people from a city, say San Francisco, then the earthquake didn’t occur. This had nothing to do with fracking as the lawyers on this site note.

    http://www.nyx.net/~dcypser/induceq/iugg1abs.html

    The irony of carbon sequestration is that the oil companies have used the practice for years to increase yields. It’s expensive but the increased yields make it worthwhile. To have the taxpayers pay was a bonus. They looked like responsible environmental citizens while they increased yields and profits. I wrote about this here;

    http://drtimball.com/2011/carbon-sequestration-how-environmentalists-boost-oil-company-profits/

  19. Too bad the WWF no longer cares about wildlife, despite formerly being the “World Wildlife Fund”. Have people already forgotten about the Worms From Hell found in the bowels of the Earth, kilometers down, where only single-celled organisms were thought to live? Discovered only because South African gold miners dug that deep?

    Injecting CO2 to displace oil and help well production, that shouldn’t hurt any critters down there as they wouldn’t even be there since oil tends to impede respiration. Injecting water when fracking, that should increase the possibilities for life, and the fracking itself breaks up the rocks making more little spaces for the critters to live in.

    But injecting CO2 underground otherwise, into places that may already be hospitable to life, including multi-cellular critters? That will surely kill them! What lives in liquid high-pressure CO2? Nothing on this planet, that’s what.

    Where are all those Green groups screaming “Biodiversity!” when you need them?

  20. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    June 17, 2012 at 10:31 am
    Where are all those Green groups screaming “Biodiversity!” when you need them?
    _____________________
    CO2 injection has a nice fit within ‘the cause’, don’t you see?

  21. With its wanton destruction of Central-California countryside
    Gov MoonBeam’s Bullet Train to Nowhere
    seems the ultimate in Leftie Lunacy,
    but then along comes Carbon Capture,
    which its proponents want implemented world-wide.

    Undoubtedly they are planning mandatory capture
    of all personal combustion, whether by car or house furnace.
    You will have to have a CO2 tank installed under your own house
    and pay to have a truck come periodically to drain it.
    A govt CO2 monitor on your roof will enforce zero-emissions.

  22. Amazing, how the greens always come up with solutions that destroy what they’re fighting for.

  23. cleanwater2 said:
    June 17, 2012 at 9:57 am
    There is no creditable experiment that proves that the “greenhouse gas effect exists! To invest millions of dollars to sequester CO2 is absolute stupidity.
    —————————————
    Millions? Norway alone spent billions on its carbon segregation fiasco.

    Carbon equality now! Let my molecules go!

  24. Fracking does not depend on water injection. It can also be done with liquid propane gas injection (sand and chemicals mixed in). That way the LPG will immediately make a natural gas well in a shale formation productive, without having to worry about unwanted water flow.

    A number of tests have been done (such as in Alberta, Canada), with promising results. More: http://www.gasfrac.com/

  25. I agree with those who say we don’t know that high atmospheric CO2 levels will be harmful, so it is premature to actually sequester significant amounts of CO2. But actually doing it isn’t the same as getting good at it. I support a major effort to figure out how to capture directly from the atmosphere and sequester efficiently and safely.

    Equating sequestration with pumping CO2 into the ground is simply incorrect. The most basic form of sequestration is to bury organic matter (artificial coal), or to char it (biochar). My read is that the biosphere releases every year 15-20 times as much CO2 as humans release. To stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels we only need to sequester about half the amount that we release. So, intercepting just 3% of the biologically fixed CO2 would do the trick. It has been estimated that biochar of our own agricultural and other waste cellulosic material could come close to compensating for all fossil fuel burning in the world.

    In my opinion, mineralization would be better than burying or charing organic material. Many people know that CO2 is naturally removed from the atmosphere over geologic time periods as oxides spontaneously react with atmospheric CO2 to form carbonates (like limestone). The reactions are thermodynamically favored (actually release a small amount of free energy) but are kinetically challenged and so take very long times. Speeding up reactions like this is, of course, what catalysis is good for and is a significant part of what chemists and chemical engineers spend their time developing. I think this is where we should be putting a billion or two per year – once again, learning how to do it, NOT actually sequestering lots of CO2 at this point, or perhaps ever.

    Pumping CO2 into the ground is the last, least desireable sort of sequestration. I’m not surprised that more flaws with this method are emerging.

  26. i would like to point out some “dirty little deails”. the carbon dioxide they want to “sequester” is a gas at what we call normal tempuratures and pressures. it comes out of a pipe about twenty feet in diameter at a middling velocity.

    what i’m saying is that there is a lot of gas spread all over the place above the power plant but at a moderate temperature and pressure with quite a bit of water vapor mixed in.

    if we want to compress it to pump it down a 12″ hole we will have to build some VERY MUSCULAR compressors, water separators and pumps that take quite a bit of power to run. (if we propose to do the work by some chemical feat of legerdemain or biological magic then the tree huggers will attack it through the media and the politicians). on top of this you will have to have a quite sophisticated control system to keep the product liquid. carbon dioxide has a very narrow liquid phase and if it gets to cold it will freeze solid in the pipe line and to warm it will flash into gas at a very high pressure.

    what i am leading to is that there is the distinct possibility that it will take as much electricity to sequester the carbon dioxide as the plant produces thereby producing a monsterous circular goat breeding arrangement that only a beaurocrat can understand and love.

    C

  27. PeterGeorge says:

    June 17, 2012 at 12:23 pm
    =======================================================================
    sirrah:
    once upon a time, far far ago and long long away southern california built aircraft, automobiles, ships, tires, peeckup trucks, …………….. and space ships. thats all pretty well gone these days but they did also have a full service steel mill. yep the whole thing. blast furnaces, basic oxygen shop and rolling mill. now there is a race track on the blast furnace and bop shop sites but the rolling mill is still there.

    the bop shop used tremendous amounts of oxeygen in its operations. there was a liquid oxeygen plant across the ten freeway and about a mile to the west which was connected to the bop shop with a 12 ” underground pipe line. one of the byproducts of the oxygen plant was industrial carbon dioxide. the stuff was available literally by the truck load. if you wanted large quantities you could get it in large chunks delivered in dump truck lots at pretty close to delivery fuel costs. alas its all gone now. a victim of scamd and epa.

    C

  28. In addition to the odd quake, the real problem with underground CO2 storage is what happens when it escapes, in a well-blowout.

    This is what happened when CO2 escaped at lake Nyos, and thousands of people and animals died.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos

    Imagine what would happen if a North Sea CO2 storage strata fractured and let its CO2 escape. You would not want to be downwind of that.

    .

  29. oeman50 says:
    June 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

    “George E. Smith; says:
    June 17, 2012 at 8:55 am
    Well; (pun intended) these idiots don’t seem to understand that “carbon sequestration” , is really OXYGEN sequestration.”

    i have heard this before, putting the focus on the oxygen being sequestered, somehow depleting the oxygen supply. (BTW, I am not contesting the main point of not putting the stuff away, just the technical point of removing oxygen with the sequestration of CO2.)

    When carbon is combined with oxygen, it releases energy and assumes a lower energy state than the reactants. So it will remain as CO2 or combine to an even lower energy state as a carbonate, CO3–. So, no matter where you put it the oxygen in CO2 or a carbonate, it is unavailable to react to release the O2 at temperatures available in the environment. So, oxygen, being unavailable to return to O2, is essentially “sequestered” even if it is in the atmosphere. In terms of its function as a supporter of life, it really doesn’t matter where it goes, on top of or under the ground.

    .
    Seems you have never heard of photosynthesis. O2 is bio-available when the C is eaten. The atmosphere is where we want the CO2 as it represents our future oxygen supply, as well as food for plants. What earthly good is burying our carbon and oxygen? GK

  30. G. Karst says:
    June 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Seems you have never heard of photosynthesis. O2 is bio-available when the C is eaten. The atmosphere is where we want the CO2 as it represents our future oxygen supply, as well as food for plants. What earthly good is burying our carbon and oxygen? GK
    ========================================
    Maybe you forget that the carbon that is the source of this CO2 was already underground before it was brought up. The human contribution is small compared to the natural carbon cycle. And the impact on the amount of oxygen in the air is negligible.

  31. Enhanced Oil Recovery using CO2 has been mentioned in this thread… Where do you suppose that the CO2 comes from?

    Here are a few of the sources… (projected production rate 2015) While conversion of hydrocarbon sources is taking a greater share of the production capacity each year, even in 2015 it will still be less than half of the CO2 extracted from the ground.

    Jackson Dome MS (25 tonne/a), McElmo Dome CO (24 tonne/a), Bravo Dome NM (5 tonne/a), Sheep Mountain CO (0.6 tonne/a), Doe Canyon CO (3.3 tonne/a)

    Jackson Dome was a volcano a few million years ago. It’s principle contaminant is H2S, likely from the layers of organic sediment as the Mississippi embayment accumulated sediment. Other sources have contaminants of N2, CH4 and He.

    http://www.spe.org/ejournals/spe/EEM/2012/04/TechNote_0412.pdf

  32. oeman50 says:
    June 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Maybe you forget that the carbon that is the source of this CO2 was already underground before it was brought up. The human contribution is small compared to the natural carbon cycle.

    This is an argument against CO2 sequestering, as it undermines the very stated premise for CO2 reductions ie CO2 sequestering will nullify warming.

    And the impact on the amount of oxygen in the air is negligible.

    According to:

    According to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, an oxygen level below 19.5 percent is oxygen-deficient and immediately dangerous to life or health.

    At current levels of 21% there isn’t as much wiggle room as some might think, but I agree it may not significantly affect atmos O2 levels. However due to possible feedbacks, how can anyone say?

    In any event… you did not address my question “What earthly good is burying our carbon and oxygen?” GK

  33. Carbon sequestration, especially in the form of CO2 or carbonates, is the intellectual equivalent of impoverishing and enslaving people to build giant pillars to keep the sky from falling.

    The problem is nonsensical and the solution wouldn’t work anyway.

    And yet a significant percentage of what I *thought* was the “scientific community” has enrolled itself in this cult and begun cutting stone for the pillars (using other people’s money, of course).

    It used to bother me that archaeologists always seemed to assume people in the past were not only superstitious but stupid, but now I understand where they got the idea.

  34. Why is it that fracking gets this treatment yet geothermal does not? I keep an eye on Iceland’s seismics every day and water pumping for the geothermal plant east of Reykjavík lights the map up at least once a month.

    It must be this mathematical equation:

    Geothermal = Good
    Shale Gas = Bad
    MSM = Rinse and repeat often as possible.

  35. It’s not OK to pump stuff into the ground to recover oil. It is OK to pump stuff into the ground if no oil is recovered.
    Why does bulldozing acres of pristine desert in California to install a solar electric plant come to mind?

  36. Philip Bradley says:
    June 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    No mention of geothermal energy, which is where the real earthquake risks are.

    Want some occasional entertainment? Take a peek periodically at this site

    http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/hengill/

    Eventually… you will see the entire region have a shot-gun spray of quake events. This is the area of the Hengill geothermal plant. They inject water and recover steam. On occasion they have injected a mix of CO2 saturated water in fracking conditions (pressure raised higher than the fracture gradient) an attempt to have the CO2 react with the rock to produce carbonates in the formation to act as propping agents.

    By the way… the Hengill region is a triple junction. One of the more unstable geological features that you will find in plate tectonics. (by unstable, I am referring to the incidents of quakes, not that the junction is migrating, as certain configurations do)

  37. Merovign says:
    June 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm
    “Carbon sequestration, especially in the form of CO2 or carbonates, is the intellectual equivalent of impoverishing and enslaving people to build giant pillars to keep the sky from falling.

    The problem is nonsensical and the solution wouldn’t work anyway.

    And yet a significant percentage of what I *thought* was the “scientific community” has enrolled itself in this cult and begun cutting stone for the pillars (using other people’s money, of course).

    It used to bother me that archaeologists always seemed to assume people in the past were not only superstitious but stupid, but now I understand where they got the idea.”
    ======================================================
    That (bold) looks like a Quote of The Week to me. Keen insight there.

  38. We remove bicarbonates from drinking water by changing them to carbonates that settle out then add CO2 to change the carbonates that didn’t settle out back into bicarbonates so they don’t clog up your plumbing. Are we helping or hurting?
    Oh, and I think the CO2 we use is a byproduct of ethonal production.
    (Life sure can get complicated when you forget to not consider foolishness.)

  39. Putting CO2 into the ground. CaCO3 is the main component of limestone. Water and CO2 form carbonic acid, H2CO3. Carbonic acid dissolving limestone is what formed Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Maybe this whole global warming thing isn’t about global governance but an attempt to form a bigger cave out of jealousy of the Bluegrass State? /sarc

  40. I forgot to mention that we change the bicarbonates to carbonates by adding water to Calcium Oxide to form Calcium Hydroxide which, when added to Calcium Bicarbonate forms Calcium Carbonate. Calcium Oxide is formed by crushing and heating limestone (CaCO3) until the CO2 is driven off. Maybe instead of shutting down coal plants they should shut down water plants? Who needs water?

  41. CCS is a non proved idea. It was tried in Scotland but failed, the company undertaking the trials actually ran out of government grants without actually getting anywhere constructive. ie. it did not work.

  42. G. Karst says:
    June 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    In any event… you did not address my question “What earthly good is burying our carbon and oxygen?” GK
    =====================================================
    True, I did not answer that question. My response is, no damn good at all. In the interest of fair play, I was just trying to address the technical issue of worry about depleting the air of oxygen if CO2 is sequestered.

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