Claim: Underground Carbon Reservoirs are Stable

Lake Nyos, a volcanic crater lake located in the Northwest Region of Cameroon

Lake Nyos, a volcanic crater lake located in the Northwest Region of Cameroon

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A study of naturally occurring CO2 reservoirs has given a boost to carbon capture projects, by concluding mild acidity of CO2 / Carbonic Acid does not significantly corrode the rocks holding it in, even on 100,000 year timescales. But this study does nothing to allay my concerns about the hideous dangers I believe are associated with this technology.

The Press Release;

Carbon dioxide can be stored underground for ten times the length needed to avoid climatic impact

Study of natural-occurring 100,000 year-old CO2 reservoirs shows no significant corroding of ‘cap rock’, suggesting the greenhouse gas hasn’t leaked back out – one of the main concerns with greenhouse gas reduction proposal of carbon capture and storage.

New research shows that natural accumulations of carbon dioxide (CO2) that have been trapped underground for around 100,000 years have not significantly corroded the rocks above, suggesting that storing CO2 in reservoirs deep underground is much safer and more predictable over long periods of time than previously thought.

These findings, published today in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrate the viability of a process called carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a solution to reducing carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power stations, say researchers.

CCS involves capturing the carbon dioxide produced at power stations, compressing it, and pumping it into reservoirs in the rock more than a kilometre underground.

The CO2 must remain buried for at least 10,000 years to avoid the impacts on climate. One concern is that the dilute acid, formed when the stored CO2 dissolves in water present in the reservoir rocks, might corrode the rocks above and let the CO2 escape upwards.

By studying a natural reservoir in Utah, USA, where CO2 released from deeper formations has been trapped for around 100,000 years, a Cambridge-led research team has now shown that CO2 can be securely stored underground for far longer than the 10,000 years needed to avoid climatic impacts.

Their new study shows that the critical component in geological carbon storage, the relatively impermeable layer of “cap rock” that retains the CO2, can resist corrosion from CO2-saturated water for at least 100,000 years.

“Carbon capture and storage is seen as essential technology if the UK is to meet its climate change targets,” says principle investigator Professor Mike Bickle, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Cambridge.

“A major obstacle to the implementation of CCS is the uncertainty over the long-term fate of the CO2 which impacts regulation, insurance, and who assumes the responsibility for maintaining CO2 storage sites. Our study demonstrates that geological carbon storage can be safe and predictable over many hundreds of thousands of years.”

The key component in the safety of geological storage of CO2 is an impermeable cap rock over the porous reservoir in which the CO2 is stored. Although the CO2 will be injected as a dense fluid, it is still less dense than the brines originally filling the pores in the reservoir sandstones, and will rise until trapped by the relatively impermeable cap rocks.

“Some earlier studies, using computer simulations and laboratory experiments, have suggested that these cap rocks might be progressively corroded by the CO2-charged brines, formed as CO2 dissolves, creating weaker and more permeable layers of rock several metres thick and jeopardising the secure retention of the CO2,” explains lead author Dr Niko Kampman.

“However, these studies were either carried out in the laboratory over short timescales or based on theoretical models. Predicting the behaviour of CO2 stored underground is best achieved by studying natural CO2 accumulations that have been retained for periods comparable to those needed for effective storage.”

To better understand these effects, this study, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council and the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, examined a natural reservoir where large natural pockets of CO2 have been trapped in sedimentary rocks for hundreds of thousands of years. Sponsored by Shell, the team drilled deep down below the surface into one of these natural CO2 reservoirs to recover samples of the rock layers and the fluids confined in the rock pores.

The team studied the corrosion of the minerals comprising the rock by the acidic carbonated water, and how this has affected the ability of the cap rock to act as an effective trap over geological periods of time. Their analysis studied the mineralogy and geochemistry of cap rock and included bombarding samples of the rock with neutrons at a facility in Germany to better understand any changes that may have occurred in the pore structure and permeability of the cap rock.

They found that the CO2 had very little impact on corrosion of the minerals in the cap rock, with corrosion limited to a layer only 7cm thick. This is considerably less than the amount of corrosion predicted in some earlier studies, which suggested that this layer might be many metres thick.

The researchers also used computer simulations, calibrated with data collected from the rock samples, to show that this layer took at least 100,000 years to form, an age consistent with how long the site is known to have contained CO2.

The research demonstrates that the natural resistance of the cap rock minerals to the acidic carbonated waters makes burying CO2 underground a far more predictable and secure process than previously estimated.

“With careful evaluation, burying carbon dioxide underground will prove very much safer than emitting CO2 directly to the atmosphere,” says Bickle.

The Cambridge research into the CO2 reservoirs in Utah was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (CRIUS consortium of Cambridge, Manchester and Leeds universities and the British Geological Survey) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The project involved an international consortium of researchers led by Cambridge, together with Aarchen University (Germany), Utrecht University (Netherlands), Utah State University (USA), the Julich Centre for Neutron Science, (Garching, Germany), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA), the British Geological Survey, and Shell Global Solutions International (Netherlands).

Reference:

N. Kampman, et al. “Observational evidence confirms modelling of the long-term integrity of CO2-reservoir caprocks” Nature Communications 28 July 2016.

Source: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/carbon-dioxide-can-be-stored-underground-for-ten-times-the-length-needed-to-avoid-climatic-impact

The abstract of the study;

Observational evidence confirms modelling of the long-term integrity of CO2-reservoir caprocks

Storage of anthropogenic CO2 in geological formations relies on a caprock as the primary seal preventing buoyant super-critical CO2 escaping. Although natural CO2 reservoirs demonstrate that CO2 may be stored safely for millions of years, uncertainty remains in predicting how caprocks will react with CO2-bearing brines. This uncertainty poses a significant challenge to the risk assessment of geological carbon storage. Here we describe mineral reaction fronts in a CO2 reservoir-caprock system exposed to CO2 over a timescale comparable with that needed for geological carbon storage. The propagation of the reaction front is retarded by redox-sensitive mineral dissolution reactions and carbonate precipitation, which reduces its penetration into the caprock to ~7 cm in ~105 years. This distance is an order-of-magnitude smaller than previous predictions. The results attest to the significance of transport-limited reactions to the long-term integrity of sealing behaviour in caprocks exposed to CO2.

Read more: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160728/ncomms12268/full/ncomms12268.html

Given that CO2 seems stable when pumped into correctly surveyed reservoirs, why am I concerned?

My concern is the sheer volume of CO2 which would have to to be buried to make a difference. It would only take one mistake, one contractor shortcut too many, to create a loss of life on a scale comparable to the deaths which would result from a large nuclear explosion in a populated area.

Consider the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster, which occurred when a “natural” source of CO2 suddenly burped – thankfully in a sparsely populated area.

Although a sudden outgassing of CO2 had occurred at Lake Monoun in 1984, a similar threat from Lake Nyos was not anticipated.

Cattle suffocated by carbon dioxide from Lake Nyos

On August 21, 1986, a limnic eruption occurred at Lake Nyos, triggering the sudden release of about 100,000–300,000 tons (some sources state as much as 1.6 million tons) of CO2. This gas cloud rose at nearly 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) and spilled over the northern lip of the lake into a valley running roughly east-west from Cha to Subum. It then rushed down two valleys branching off to the north, displacing all of the air and suffocating some 1,700 people within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of the lake, mostly rural villagers, as well as 3,500 livestock. The villages most affected were Cha, Nyos, and Subum. Scientists concluded from evidence that a 100 m (330 ft) fountain of water and foam formed at the surface of the lake. The huge amount of water rising suddenly caused much turbulence in the water, spawning a wave of at least 25 metres (82 ft) that would scour the shore of one side.

One survivor, Joseph Nkwain from Subum, described himself when he awoke after the gases had struck:

“I could not speak. I became unconscious. I could not open my mouth because then I smelled something terrible . . . I heard my daughter snoring in a terrible way, very abnormal . . . When crossing to my daughter’s bed . . . I collapsed and fell. I was there till nine o’clock in the (Friday) morning . . . until a friend of mine came and knocked at my door . . . I was surprised to see that my trousers were red, had some stains like honey. I saw some . . . starchy mess on my body. My arms had some wounds . . . I didn’t really know how I got these wounds . . . I opened the door . . . I wanted to speak, my breath would not come out . . . My daughter was already dead . . . I went into my daughter’s bed, thinking that she was still sleeping. I slept till it was 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon . . . on Friday. (Then) I managed to go over to my neighbors’ houses. They were all dead . . . I decided to leave . . . (because) most of my family was in Wum . . . I got my motorcycle . . . A friend whose father had died left with me (for) Wum . . . As I rode . . . through Nyos I didn’t see any sign of any living thing . . . (When I got to Wum), I was unable to walk, even to talk . . . my body was completely weak.”

Carbon dioxide, being about 1.5 times as dense as air, caused the cloud to “hug” the ground and descend down the valleys, where various villages were located. The mass was about 50 metres (160 ft) thick and it travelled downward at a rate of 20–50 kilometres per hour (12–31 mph). For roughly 23 kilometres (14 mi) the cloud remained condensed and dangerous, suffocating many of the people sleeping in Nyos, Kam, Cha, and Sebum. About 4,000 inhabitants fled the area, and many of these developed respiratory problems, lesions, and paralysis as a result of the gases.

It is not known what triggered the catastrophic outgassing. Most geologists suspect a landslide, but some believe that a small volcanic eruption may have occurred on the bed of the lake. A third possibility is that cool rainwater falling on one side of the lake triggered the overturn. Others still believe there was a small earthquake, but as witnesses did not report feeling any tremors on the morning of the disaster, this hypothesis is unlikely. Whatever the cause, the event resulted in the rapid mixing of the supersaturated deep water with the upper layers of the lake, where the reduced pressure allowed the stored CO2 to effervesce out of solution.[citation needed]

It is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres (0.29 cu mi) of gas was released.[16] The normally blue waters of the lake turned a deep red after the outgassing, due to iron-rich water from the deep rising to the surface and being oxidised by the air. The level of the lake dropped by about a metre and trees near the lake were knocked down.

Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos#1986_disaster

The 1-300,000 tons of CO2 which was released from Lake Nyos is about the amount of CO2 produced by one medium coal power station over 6 months or so of normal operation. According to the US EPA, America produces around 5000,000,000 tons of CO2 every year.

One slip-up, one corrupt contractor, one mistake which led to the abrupt release of 0.006% of the CO2 which would have to be captured and buried to make America “carbon neutral”, could kill millions of people, if it occurred near a major population centre.

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111 thoughts on “Claim: Underground Carbon Reservoirs are Stable

  1. “Claim: Underground Carbon Reservoirs are Stable”
    Umm,… Yes. They are underground.

    • Maybe someone should also send a memo to Steven-kinetics-can-tell-you-nothing-Mosher, explaining that just because something could happen it doesn’t mean that it will.

    • Carbon reservoirs are most definitely stable. It takes heavy machinery to dig the stuff up to use it..
      But the paper is about carbon dioxide reservoirs.

      • Yes, WUWT should adopt an editorial ban on using “carbon” and CO2 synonymously. They are not synonymous; carbon=soot=propaganda. Sloppy usage to equate the two, and plays into the CO2 as “pollution” trope.

      • The climate change people regularly interchange the 2. They measure carbon in gigatons. To covert it to co2, they multiply it by 3.67. As we all know skeptics don’t understand that (sarc). It just adds confusion as to exactly what they are talking about. And that is what they want.
        CAGW has done a couple of things lately. First they stopped using land use in the rise of co2 as part of their total. Second they started estimating that carbon varies by +/- 0.5 Gct. or about 6%. I think its because they just cant account for all the missing co2 that’s suppose to be out there.

    • Environmentalists think after some generations people are unable to operate the like of Geiger-Zähler so radioactive material has to be stored safe for min. 25,000 years.
      After 100,000 years people living on earth could be unable to reliable detect a change in the atmosphere.
      And the greens always worried about aircrafts crashing into nuclear plants – with the fiasco of the EU-drone we learned that every year more then 80 drones crash over germany. None of them found a nuclear plant, in fact noone told about broken drones because it’s very unlikely that someone stands near when a drone hits ground somewhere in the Pampa.

    • Maybe the 100,000 year old CO2 reservoir was created by a previous human civilization that used CCS because some CAGW zealots forced it. The reduction in CO2 in the atmosphere was enough to bring on the last glacial period before the Holocene.

    • The goal of the true hard-core greens is to disrupt energy economics, as their goal seems to be a combination of Malthus and Ludd. Any technological remedy will be opposed.
      i do see the problems with CO2 capture,though. Nuclear waste seems to be much less of a problem as far as volume, but the greens do not want any technological remedy.

      • Same with the people who want to “end capitalism”. They never seem to mention what they want to replace it with and no media people ever seem to ask them. Strange, that.

      • It does seem odd that there is no place on earth geologically stable enough to store vitrified nuclear waste for 25,000 years yet there seems to be no problem finding places to store a high pressure gas for 100,000 years.
        It doesn’t add up.

    • Not wanting to sound supportive of CCS, because it’s a stupid idea for many reasons, even if the problem it ‘solves’ was an actual problem, but there are differences between CCS and hydraulic stimulation.
      The Fracking that greenies hate involves dilerately fracturing shale, which has low permeability in order to allow oil or gas to flow towards a production well.
      Saline acquifers are preferred as CCS reservoirs so the pressurized CO2 is dissolved into the brine in the reservoir. The ideal ‘solution’ is to have an acquifer expansive enough and transmissive enough that once dissolved in the salty water the injected CO2 can migrate laterally; then even if by injecting CO2 over a protracted time you manage to elevate the reservoir pressure enough to push any leaking water all the way to surface via a leak, the CO2 concentration should be lower by way of dispersion.
      In that case individual wells shouldn’t be able to leak brine with enough CO2 dissolved in it to pose the sort of risk that Lake Nyos did, but it would of course mean the whole expensive exercise would ultimately fail to keep the CO2 out of the atmosphere.
      Also it’s worth bearing in mind that many of the oil companies who are pushing CCS as the answer to tackling gullible warming are intending to inject the offending CO2 into depleted offshore oilfields, which would limit the danger to populations in the event of a major loss of well integrity. It also sidesteps transport questions, because you can use the in situ oil/gas export infrastructure (that is to say pipelines) in reverse to carry the CO2 from industrial sources to the depleted oil field for sequestration.
      As I mentioned in a reply to another article on WUWT though, the idea that the wells that would be used to inject the CO2 underground will remain integral for 10,000 years is a joke. A typical oil or gas well only has to survive for about 20 or 30 years, with the reservoir pressure declining the whole time, before the section producing oil or gas is plugged with cement and the well is abandoned. That’s a very different requirement to a CCS well that will inject CO2 for presumably much longer, then be plugged against a reservoir whose pressure has been elevated (even if not by very much) and which needs to remain in good condition for 10,000 years. You don’t need earthquakes or even contractor shortcuts for the injected CO2 to inevitably have an available pathway for upward migration once the casings in the well have corroded and the cement shoes and plugs have crumbled.
      And then add 15-20% to the energy bills of the industrial process whose CO2 emissions are to be captured (using a carcinogenic amine) and then add the energy cost to transport to the injection field via pipeline, or tanker if you’re not plumbed into the pipeline, just to clarify how demented the idea is.
      …No wonder gang-green loves it.

      • The oil.companies will love.it also. They.will get paid for.what they.have.to.pay for now. (Dealing with CO2 or injecting it for EOR)

  2. The concept of sequestration by pump storage is all nicey nice and entertaining but misses the point entirely. Power plants of the world were not built on top of CO2 capable, gas storage reservoir sites. If you have a plant in Pennsylvania and the biggest site is say, a salt dome in Louisiana, what good is that supposed to do you? I mean, really. Who is going to pay those transport pumping costs hundred of miles to typical sites or are you going to have storage under major cities? If Los Angeles power plants want pump storage, are they going to pump it into the oil reservoirs under Bel Aire? You think maybe? What about pumping near faults? The Los Angeles Basin is full of faults. Are you able to guarantee that pump storage will not activate a fault? Oh, there was a mistake and a hidden fault and it caused only a brief magnitude 7 quake. Keep in mind, most faults in Los Angeles are known to oil companies, whose location is proprietary. Are you going to pass a law demanding oil companies put data in the public domain that cost them tens of millions of dollars in exploration costs to create? What would have to take place is that every single power plant in the world would have to be torn down and relocated. This is just another greenie idea that does not pass the competency test to implement. CO2 contacts water is going to make carbonic acid. This is going to be okay? It is not going to react? Really. You going to store somewhere with no underground water? Like where? The Sahara?

    • A correction: geological data is released to public domain after a certain timeframe, which I forget right now. The CA Dept of Oil and Gas Resources gets the data eventually. For special reasons like this oil companies will often make accommodations to assist public domain projects.

      • JM: you are correct to a large extent. Oil companies are required to release the data to the appropriate state agencies when the well is completed. The exception to this is if the oil company declares the well to be a “tight” hole. which means they get to sit on the data for 6 months to a year (depending on the state) before it has to be released to the public.

    • “…CO2 contacts water is going to make carbonic acid. This is going to be okay?…”

      Must be harmless, even in concentrated amounts! Well, as concentrated as Pepsi, er, carbonic acid gets anyway.
      Once again, the cagwsters have contradicted themselves and the oceans are in no danger from slightly higher CO2 levels.

    • Excellent point, Donald. High pressure pipelines cost $2+ million per mile. And try to route a CO2 pipe near anybody’s backyard in a populated area, oh my.

  3. The reason this has never been implemented is basic and clear. Power plants are located for economic reasons but sequestration sites are located in porous rocks. It is uncommon for power plants to be located on or anywhere near storage capable sites. For most power plants, the presumed storage sites would be several hundred miles away. The pipeline infrastructure to install this would be staggering and a huge impact on the surface environment.

  4. Given that the rocks in Utah are stable w/ respect to CO2 – the obvious environmentally correct solution to the storage problem is to ship ALL the power related CO2 from the UK to Utah and pump it underground for 10,000 years. What a marvelous way to fix it! Think of the billions of $ (or pounds) it will take to do that – and the licensing studies and environmental action, and legal proceedings etc, etc. And the accidents resulting from construction which will kill people unnecessarily… The mind boggles! (sarc of course for those who need the guidance)

    • One shouldn’t inject the CO2 into stable environments.
      The best places would be where major tectonic metamorphism occurs. That way the Earth itself, using heat and pressure, can convert the CO2 back into carbon fuels for us.

  5. Light gases such as Helium and Methane have been sequestered for up to 1.0 billion years and more. CO2 will not be any different.
    The real issue with sequestration is the cost of separating it in a, presumably, fossil fuel energy generation scheme and then pumping it underground. It is very expensive. It is less expensive if tied to increased oil production like most of the current plans are based on, but it is still costly.
    But then, there are 5,000 coal fired power plants around the world producing 50% of the total CO2 emissions. You either decide to sequester CO2 from coal (and other) power plants or you don’t care about CO2 emissions in the long-run (as in global warming is not a real problem) or you try to find some way of making renewable energy generation work. It’s like picking the best solution from 3 very bad choices.
    BUT you have to choose. Take your pick rather than just crapping on one of the three choices on the table.

    • Nature’s proven carbon dioxide sequestration system involves mineralization with calcium, etc in aquas solution resulting in stable carbonate rocks. That is why Earth’s atmosphere is no longer like that of Venus.
      Earth’s CO2 levels are still abnormally low, judging by the atmospheric reconstructions covering the last 600 million years.

    • At the moment, we should continue to put the CO2 in the atmosphere, its good for the plants, at least until 1200/ppmillion

    • You left out “or you adopt a proven non-carbon-based power generation technology, namely nuclear.” There really are at least four choices on the table and it’s not a good idea to pretend that one of them doesn’t exist.

    • I hate to bring this up here, but what’s wrong with global warming? Less ice more land for food to grow? Bad? No! Bad is war, over Shri king resources, bad is hungry people, bad is lying to people, to horde resources, create artificial shortages and cheat. There is a reason it’s called “bad”.

  6. just asking … out of ignorance of possible comprehensive life-of-project economics: if it is economical to pressurized and pump large volumes of CO2 into high pressure storage reservoirs — i am assuming these will be depleted petroleum reservoirs, or, maybe depleted salt caverns at depths greater than a few thousand feet — could it not be economical for same CO2 to be used — consumed? — by everyday greenhouse activity … for growing plant food type things?

    • Yes, it is economical. Yes it is commonly done in petroleum reservoirs, for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). Yes, some of the CO2 is sold for commercial purposes.

      • A caveat on the economics… It is economical when CO2 is stripped out at the gas processing facility. Sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere is a different proposition.

      • It’s only done in EOC if there is a cheap supply of CO2 already at pressure. For power plants, you add a very large gas treating facility to absorb the CO2 out of the flue gas, Then you have to compress it and dry it. Can’t put wet CO2 in a pipeline – it would rust out in weeks. Then compress it further to push it into the formation. My company has looked at this. The energy required will use about 40% of the output of the power plant instead of the 10% power plants use as part of the production process. That means we have to burn 40% more coal, just making the supposed problem worse.

      • In other words, no it is not economical (by the definition of the word). It will never be economical, because storing CO2 for the purposes of controlling climate has next to zero value to mankind. It may even have negative value, once crop yields are taken into account.

    • John, using the crops in greenhouses to sequester the CO2 would make more sense than trying to pump it underground and dissolve it into saline water, but you can bet your left testicle that such a proposal would be buried under a mound a green and red tape on the grounds that the CO2 would still contain traces of the amine used to capture the CO2 from flue gases (which is carcinogenic) or traces of other flue polutants (coal smoke is full of mercury and radio-nuclides doncha know?). No doubt some ex-spurt* from gang-green would be quick to roll out a computer model study indicating that not all of the captured CO2 would thus be sequestered, once leaks from the greenhouse doors and decomposition of the non-edible parts of the food crop were accounted for (made up by the modeller that should say), let alone the gullible warming potential of the flatulence emitted by consumers of the food grown in the greenhouse.
      *ex = a has-been. spurt = a drip under pressure

  7. If some future US administration mandates CO2 storage schemes, the trial should be located under Washington, DC.

  8. just asking … out of ignorance of possible comprehensive life-of-project CO2-injection economics:
    if it is economical to pressurized and pump large volumes of CO2 into high pressure storage reservoirs — i am assuming these will be depleted petroleum reservoirs, or, maybe depleted salt caverns at depths greater than a few thousand feet — i would suspect it might also be economical for same CO2 to be used — consumed … as in CO2 no more! — by current-day greenhouse activity … for growing plant food type things?
    yes/no?
    ps: i am sure this has been thought about, but, so far, on this threads, i see no comment regarding this approach.

    • I believe there are projects trialling using power station exhaust gas to grow a form of algae capable of making biodiesel. I doubt it is economical without large dollops of government largesse.

  9. Just before the fracking revolution, the greenies were all positive on nat. gas. It could replace coal and oil, they said. It would be cleaner, they said.
    Plenty of us pointed out that if a miracle occurred and nat. gas became cheap and abundant, the greenies would turn on it with a vengeance.
    That did not take long.
    I am convinced that the greenie ideal would be to have CCS required by law. Then they would do their level best to stop every single injection site and every single pipeline. Imagine the protests, “a pipeline going through your town, carrying a deadly toxic pollutant!”.
    Not checkmate, but just as good, stalemate.

  10. It would make more sense to build original design(*) RBMK plants (the “Chernobyl nuclear reactor” style plant, in case you don’t know – even though it was never called like that) in the middle of a town.
    (*) the one with low enrichment, very good neutron budget, very slow boron rods with graphite at the tips, and easy to bypass safety devices

    • The plants were safe, robust, and reliable. (At least according to Soviet standards!)
      Then they had to “experiment”.
      I wonder what would happen if….?
      I wonder what this button does?
      What could possibly go wrong?
      On the other hand, RBMK plants are good at making plutonium. (That is actually the point of the design)
      Get one of these plants, build yourself a fuel reprocessing plant. Disguise it as a sewerage treatment plant, that way nobody will want to take a closer look.
      Before you know it, your town gets to join the Nuclear Superpower club. kewl.

      • Agree. RBMK are the only plants that could have a nuclear excursion. Other than those plants, your CO2 accident would be worse than any nuclear power plant accident ever good. Chernobyl, worse than Fukashima or any western designed plant ever could, killed (at most) 4000 hypothetical people over decades. Even that death toll only happens if you believe the bogus “any radiation dose kills” theory called Linear Non-threshold Theory (LNT). If you don’t believe LNT, as i don’t, the deaths from even Chernobyl would be < 100, most in fighting the fire itself. In contrast, Lake Nyos killed 1700 real people, immediately. No way i want to be anywhere near a site storing tonnes of carbon dioxide in some flaky underground semi-natural setting.

  11. It’s still insane . Forgetting the economics how much total capacity is there relative to the total volume of all the carbon burned per year with 2 atoms of oxygen added to each of carbon ? I watch the coal trains roll and its just insane to imagine injecting all that gas into the ground anywhere .
    And of course the entire determined stupidity is that CO2 at these few molecules per 10k of air is anything other than a boon to the biosphere .

    • I really wished you did not ask.
      I checked BNSF railways, they use a couple of different coal cars, let’s use 115 tons per car.
      That is 1.045 X 10^8 grams, and 8.708 X 10^6 moles of carbon.
      195,067,000 liters CO2 at STP per car!
      Just count up the cars in a train a mile long and you are all set.
      Cheers.

      • Unless things are vastly different in the US, a typical wagon has four axles and the typical railroad is rated for 25 or 30 tonne axle loads. A typical 100t gross wagon has about 22t of wagon and 78t of coal payload. A 120t gross wagon would have roughly 25t of wagon and 95t of coal. All metric tonnes.
        Also, black coal is typically around 70% carbon.

  12. Stupid waste of time money and resources. We need that CO2 in the atmosphere where the pants can breathe it. Besides, it has a very slight effect on the climate, mostly benign, by reducing winters and staving off the next glaciation.
    [The mods find that pants that can breathe are best studied in the warmer summer months… Holes in the pants in the winter months are not, however, benign and do tend to induce glaciation and shrinkage. .mod]

    • I have observed, and experienced, that holes in pants, when young females are studying CO2, can be a cause of violent confrontations with Pater Familias. This lends credence to the theory that increased CO2 leads to extremist behavior.

  13. Why is it that people think they can be confident of projections that stretch out over tens of thousands of years? It is getting so people will believe anything as long as a “scientist” says it and there is a computer model that seems to support it.

  14. From the sixth paragraph in the quoted press release: “The CO2 must remain buried for at least 10,000 years to avoid the impacts on climate.”
    Uhhh . . . is the implication that CO2 has a half-life of something around 2,000 years? Remember, the assertion is that it’s not going to be escaping nor chemically reacting with the surrounding rock.
    Instead, perhaps the implication is that climate ceases to exist in a mere 10,000 years.
    Once other alternative for this claim is perhaps the “science behind” this absurd statement has the study’s researchers to conclude Armegeddon and the Rapture will have in less than 10,000 years from now, so it won’t matter anyway.

    • So for the typos in last sentence: “One” (note “once”), forgot to type “lead” after “has”, mispelled Armageddon, and “happen” (not “have).
      It been a tough day for me 😉

    • “The CO2 must remain buried for at least 10,000 years…”
      That was one of my first objections to the claims in this post. Why would 10,000 years from now be any better than 100 years from now?
      Another difficulty I have with their analysis is the fact that they use existing CO2 reservoirs as proof that long term sequestration works. Of course the seal is stable for these reservoirs, otherwise they would not exist. That does not mean you can be confident that the seal would be effective over all of the potential injection sites. The thickness, mechanical properties, and chemical properties of the “cap rock” can vary significantly from place to place. That is one reason why some regions have hydrocarbon reservoirs, and others do not.
      Why not just keep the CO2 in the atmosphere where it can feed the plants, and maybe improve the climate?

  15. Outside of the above facts, that the economics don’t work, the locations don’t work, and all the other stuff, this is a pie in the sky solution to something which may or may not be serious. It ranks with the idea of reacting Aluminum with CO2 to stabilize the gas, which is produced in the pot line that makes the Aluminum. We either learn to live with the gas, which inferior to water vapor as a green house gas, and maybe work on the natural process which involves plants. Stop pruning your trees, plant more, and kick the can down the road a bit. Or go nuclear, and do it right this time.

  16. “My concern is the sheer volume of CO2 which would have to to be buried to make a difference. It would only take one mistake, one contractor shortcut too many, to create a loss of life on a scale comparable to the deaths which would result from a large nuclear explosion in a populated area.”
    I’ve been to a couple of sites that inject CO2 (along with H2S) back into the petroleum formation for EOR. The gases are stripped out, pressurized and re-injected. It is, potentially, extremely dangerous. One site I went to claimed, in the event of a leak, the gases (60% H2S and 40% CO2) would rise to a concentration sufficient to kill everyone in a major sports stadium in 3 minutes (assuming the leak occurred in the stadium.) Contractors are required to take days of training, just to enter the site and additional training is required to perform work. Supplied air respirators are required to be worn and personnel must be ‘under air’ when on an operating unit. The sites I visited are very remote. The closest town was 33 miles away, in a straight line. There are warning signs with flashing lights on the access roads to the sites, miles from the sites, in the event of a release. Everyone on these sites, including the contractors, are very aware of the potential dangers.

  17. Let me get this straight: When it comes to fracking, not depth of cap rock is sufficient because the hydrocarbons race up the outside of the drill pipe casing to pollute the ground water. But when it comes to CO2, why, the cap rock is peachy-keen!
    Here’s another: We can’t use Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository because no geology is safe over the timescales needed (tens of thousands of years). But the same tens of thousands of years are just fine when it comes to storing highly pressurized asphyxiating gas/liquid underground.
    There ain’t no cure for that brand of stupid.

  18. Well, if you are really looking for long-term carbon sequestration, there is a viable, proven way. I would invite your attention to the White Cliffs of Dover and, here in the Texas hill country, miles and miles of limestone. Critters of one sort or another like Coccolithophores combine CO2 with calcium ion making a calcium carbonate body structures. When they die off, their “bodies” fall to the ocean floor and eventually make limestone. At one time the atmosphere had some 7,000 ppm CO2. Now it is at just above the level to extinguish all life on earth (100 to 200 PPM). Now, I am a only a Simple Red Neck. So, I would like some help here: Is that 7,000 ppm CO2 now sequestered in limestone?? I have read in another post that the density of plankton, such as Coccolithophores, has increased by a factor of ten. Is that in response to the increasing CO2? Do you suppose that the CO2 concentration is self limiting due to natural sequestration phenomena? Since CO2 follows temperature, and the CO2 has been abnormally low, do you suppose a cold shift would end life on earth because of inadequate CO2 for plants to live? Curious Red Neck questions, especially when I have been drinking Bourbon.

    • Jon Jewett:
      1. Life on Earth is pretty tenacious. It’s been around for a few billion. I wouldn’t worry about it dying out.
      2. “The density of plankton…has increased by a factor of ten.” Where? Since when?
      3. Some of the CO2 is sequestered in your Bourbon.

      • “The density of plankton…has increased by a factor of ten.”
        Could be. I seem to recall a paper which made that claim was covered here at WUWT not too long ago. The data is sketchy, including an apparent change in collection methodology. But there does seem to be some basis for some dramatic increase, although a factor of ten is probably overblown.
        “Some of the CO2 is sequestered in your Bourbon.”
        Life Is Good.

      • “A study that analyzed data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey of the North Atlantic Ocean and North Sea since the mid-1960s revealed a tenfold increase in single-cell coccolithophores between the years 1965 and 2010” see http://tinyurl.com/hfax4w5
        There has only been one period when the CO2 was as low as it is now.
        http://www.biocab.org/Carbon_Dioxide_Geological_Timescale.html
        And a post about CO2 lagging temperature.
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/30/co2-temperatures-and-ice-ages/
        And, yes, life has been rather tenacious. But I would point out that there have been several near total extinction events that my children and grandchildren probably would not survive. At THAT point, what difference does it make??
        Besides, there was a certain amount of sarcasms and irony in my original post. Although a significant drop in temperature and a corresponding drop in CO2 COULD MAYBE bring CO2 down to a level at which the biosphere productivity would not be enough too maintain life on earth as we know it.
        But, then I am only a Simple Red Neck.

      • My reply dropped off into the electronic either. I didn’t use any “bad words”. So, I will try it again.
        “A study that analyzed data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey of the North Atlantic Ocean and North Sea since the mid-1960s revealed a tenfold increase in single-cell coccolithophores between the years 1965 and 2010” see http://tinyurl.com/hfax4w5
        There has only been one period when the CO2 was as low as it is now.
        http://www.biocab.org/Carbon_Dioxide_Geological_Timescale.html
        And a post about CO2 lagging temperature.
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/30/co2-temperatures-and-ice-ages/
        And, yes, life has been rather tenacious. But I would point out that there have been several near total extinction events that my children and grandchildren would not survive if any happened again. At THAT point, what difference does it make??
        By the way, what DID happen to that 7,000 PPM CO2? Where is it sequestered? My suggestion is that it is in giga-tons of limestone. Anyone have a more learned thought?
        By the way, I don’t add soda water to my bourbon, so the CO2 is definitely not sequestered there.

    • Jon, I am with you. Coccolithophores have been sequestering CO2 from the environment until plant life is ringing a collective Condition Red.
      At one time the atmosphere had some 7,000 ppm CO2.
      At one time it was much more. But I caution you not to think of it in “ppm”, for that implies at atmospheric pressure has remained the same over geologic time. Partial Pressures would be a better measurement of CO2 in the atmosphere. Only then can we address where all the CO2 that are in our rocks used to be.

      How much carbon is accounted for in CO2 in the atmosphere compared to other places: (See Wiki: Carbon Cycle) in gigatons
      Atmosphere: 720 GT
      Fossil Fuels: 4,130 GT (90% coal and peat)
      Terrestrial biosphere: 2,000 GT (living and dead)
      Ocean organic: 1,000 GT
      Ocean inorganic: 37,400 GT
      Lithosphere Kerogens: 15,000,000 GT
      Lithosphere Carbonates: more than 60,000,000
      There is 100,000 times more carbon locked in terrestrial Kerogen and carbonates than is in the current atmosphere. These are all BIOLOGIC and for the most part formed in the Phanerozoic.
      –Rasey comment in We must get rid of the Carboniferous warm Period (WUWT 10/06/2013)

      • Thatcher invented the CO2 weapon to bully the mine workers.
        And the half-life time of environmentalists believes tend to outlive interglacials.

  19. Eric, the best arguments against CCS are not Lake Nyous instability (a volcanic crater) nor caprock stabilty. There are two much more fundament problems.
    1. Based on the CCS experiment with part of one unit of a Canadian power plant, the parasitic electric load is about 30%. That Co2 goes to tertiary oil recovery by lowering reservoir viscosity. So cost is stratospheric unless you have a handy nearby heavy oil field awaiting tertiary recovery.
    2. Unless you have a heavy oil field handy, doesn’t work chemically. illinois had a ccs experiment into a briny deep sandstone. Turns out high pressure CO2 reacted with the brine minersls to plug field porosity. So they drilled a second injection well beyond the plugged zone. Same thing. Experiment abandoned. Major US fail.

    • Yes, CO2 injection can in the right circumstances can precipitate CaCO3 (limestone) or CaMgCO3 (dolomite) and totally plug up the pore system. Unfortunately, the “right” circumstances are quite common.

  20. Clearly it is a very good idea to create and store away as much CO2 as possible. This will allow us to control the planet’s temperature in the future and thus save mankind from the next glacial climate should temperatures begin to decline by 2 C or more per century. Just release the needed amount. We have lots of computer models that will tell us just what CO2 concentration we need to create to compensate to maintain the perfect global average temperature of … um what is it again ??? I forget – oh well I’m sure there must be a 97% consensus on that.
    /sarc/

  21. This post is a bit too alarmist for my taste … especially since we have been injecting CO2 into oil reservoirs for tertiary recovery for years (and in significant volumes) with out any of the posed problems.

    • I agree. Is there a catastrophic potential… yep (the same thing can be said for many other mundane processes in industry) . The risk however, is very low.

    • I agree. CO2 can be sequestered in the right locations. My objection to the study is a biased sampling methodology (see my 8:04 below).
      My objection to CO2 sequestration in general is its absurd economics. Completely unnecessary make work that won’t affect global temperatures in the slightest, whilst putting people’s lives at risk, particularly those constructing and operating the pipelines, compressor stations, and well-heads in addition to the non-zero risk of a reservoir/well blowout to nearby communities.
      At least when a natural gas well blows out, you can set it afire until you are prepared to control it. CO2 blowouts are decidedly more dangerous than CH4 blowouts beyond the immediate vicinity of the well.

  22. The CO2 must remain buried for at least 10,000 years to avoid the impacts on climate

    This is equivalent to claiming that the Holocene inter glacial still has 10,000 years left to run before the plunge into the next glaciation. That is quite an assertion but wildly irresponsible assertions are de rigueur in the field of climate science.

  23. Predicting the behaviour of CO2 stored underground is best achieved by studying natural CO2 accumulations that have been retained for periods comparable to those needed for effective storage.”

    So, to gather evidence that CO2 sequestration into ANY reservoir and cap rock would be stable for thousands of years, they chose to study reservoir and cap rock that was stable for thousands of years.
    Does anyone but me see the statistical folly and absurdly biased sampling in this approach?
    Perhaps they should also study CO2 reservoirs that have failed in geologic time. But then they wouldn’t be CO2 reservoirs today.

    • You have just raised the same thing that occurred to me.
      Show me the failures, they will teach you far more than the successes.

  24. Curious. I have replied to
    Ronald P Ginzler July 29, 2016 at 7:31 pm
    twice and I don’t see them. They must have been eaten by the Coccolithophores and sequestered.

  25. They probably are very stable.
    But that is not the relevant climate, biosphere, or economic policy question.
    The questions are:
    1. Why would one want to keep the next Ice Age on schedule.
    2. Why would one want to blunt the biological benefits of increased CO2 fertilisation from occurring on a biosphere so dependent on the carbon cycle? Le Chatelier’s Principle says we should be front loading the photosynthtic reactions with oxidized carbon.
    3. Why should a resource and fiscally limited society expend so much energy and human resource for so little or even zero gain, when it is most likey (CO2 anthro sequestration) a minescule effect on GMST?

  26. Article 54, protocol one Geneva convention identifies that an attack against a civilian food supply as a war crime.

  27. The companies will try to make a profit and try to get away with putting more in than the geologist says they can and then https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limnic_eruption BOOM, “Nobody ever thought this would happen, the geology was perfectly stable and the science was sound!”
    Leave the goddamned CO2 in the environment where it goes, the creation of mine fields is illegal.

  28. The Centralia Pennsylvania Carbon Sequestration Project of 1962 to remove toxic CO2 locked in deep seams in the earth and sequester it safely into the atmosphere was a complete success, and should be a model for future carbon management projects. It ended strip mining in the area, helped to bring its fleeing human population down to a more sustainable level and has restored the region to become the pristine wilderness it is today.

  29. It is part of human nature to see only the one reservoir that worked, but not to know about or see the many that didn’t. How many of those were there? You need to know this. It’s like the lottery. The winner is the focus, not the millions of losers.

  30. CO2 is a life giving molecule.
    Long term geological processes of silicate weathering and fossil fuel deposition deplete the atmosphere of CO2 and threaten life.
    Burning fossil fuel reverses this life-theft and liberates life.
    Those that sequestrate CO2 will be looked on by future generations in the same light as perpetrators of the Shoah.

  31. Something that tends to be overlooked is that CO2 is a nerve gas. (That’s why you feel the need to breath) It doesn’t kill by displacing oxygen. More than 10% CO2 in the air will kill you.

  32. @Eric Worrall
    Thank you for the article.
    I would like to add some notes on the physical chemistry of CO2.
    The reaction CO2 + 2 H2O to form a hydrate enjoys enthalpic favor, but not entropic. At atmospheric pressures and usual temperatures the hydrate decomposes but hydrates in the oceans are stable so long as pressure (and comparable temperature) of several hundred meters of water are maintained.
    Stable hydrates can form with a wide range of CO2 to methane ratios including zero methane.
    The oceans already contain almost unbelievable amounts of CO2 and methane hydrates. My understanding is that an unexpected but relatively common layer of these hydrates contributed to the Macondo well blowout.
    As far as I can see, keep ’em deep and it will be fine.
    http://milkov.homestead.com/files/milkov_etal.pdf
    Annals of the NYAS Volume 912, “Gas Hydrates Challenges for the Future” Eds. Gerald D Holder and P. R. Bishnoi.

    • I do not think hydrates were at all related to Macondo. Macondo blew out after the well was supposedly sealed for a temporary abandonment.
      The primary causes of Macondo were
      1. a less than satisfactory cement plug plus
      2. not enough people on hand to monitor the mud pit levels while the riser was being emptied of mud, because
      3. there were 4 VP’s on the rig for a celebration of a 5 year safety award.
      Looking for support, primarily from Gold’s writing in the WSJ, I found this. It looks pretty complete and is a good read of what happened.
      https://gweaver.net/tech/seniors/failure/macondo/deepwaterarticle.pdf
      The VPs are mentioned on page 4 and page 10.

  33. I don’t know if I was surprised or not to find out the Mad Scientists were trying to Geo-engineer a large CO2 Reservoir directly under Decatur, Ill. The only thing that stopped it later was that the Precautionary Principle and the $1 Billion Subsidy ran out. I’d thought that both were impossible!

    • I think we’d be better off if the Government stuck to digging much smaller holes to “improve” the Economy.

  34. If 100 to 200 ppm CO2 is not enough to sustain plant life, what concentration of CO2 is required to sustain the breathing reflex in humans and other animals? In other words, do we starve to death or suffocate first?

  35. Whoever did this study did not know that there are commercially viable reservoirs of carbon dioxide and they are in production today. These reservoirs are much older than 100,000 years….

  36. Look up Kinder Morgan. They produce carbon dioxide from several fields and then use it for enhanced oil recovery.

  37. Underground money storage reservoirs are also stable, especially the ones underneath the Clinton Foundation.

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