Could we store carbon dioxide as liquid lakes under the sea?

From New Scientist

gettyimages-668758341-800x533Sumatra: the Sunda trench lies close by far beneath the ocean

Planet Observer/Getty

By Michael Marshall

Here is a radical solution to dangerous climate change: create lakes of liquid carbon dioxide on the seabed, and keep the greenhouse gas out of the air.

As well as cutting our emissions of carbon dioxide, it is becoming increasingly likely that we will have to actively remove the gas from the air to keep Earth’s temperature at a safe level – which is now agreed to be no more than 1.5 °C above that in preindustrial times.

But where should we put the carbon? Most attention has focused on burying it underground, perhaps by injecting it into depleted oil and gas fields. This approach has been tested and seems to work, but it is unclear whether people will accept this fix.

Now Steve Goldthorpe, an energy analyst based in New Zealand, has suggested a radical alternative: dump the carbon dioxide in deep ocean trenches, where it can sit permanently as a liquid lake.

The crucial point, says Goldthorpe, is that once the carbon dioxide reaches a depth of about 3000 metres, its density exceeds that of water – so it will naturally sink to the bottom and stay there.

Very large carbon sink

Goldthorpe used Google Earth to explore the seabed and identify a suitable storage site. He found a deep ocean trench around 6 kilometres down, called the Sunda trench, just south of the Indonesian archipelago. “It is big enough to accommodate 19 trillion tonnes of liquid CO2, which is greater than all the CO2 from the total global fossil fuel emissions,” he says.

Read the full story here.

HT | Robert Woodward


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Why, why, why

Thomas Homer

Once we feared fire, now we leverage it
Once we feared human blood, now we leverage it
Once we feared electricity, now we leverage it
Once we feared nuclear reactions, now we leverage them
Once we feared CO2 …

Ian Magness

Because it’s NUTS,NUTS, NUTS!!!!
Can you just imagine the breathtaking cost (both in $s and, of course, fossil fuels and, yes, carbon emissions) of pumping or transporting a gas or liquid maybe hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers from source, then pumping it down several kilometers under the sea, then sealing that with some kind of pressure and seawater resistant membrane? And let’s not even think about the fact that oceanic trenches tend to form in geologically active areas where tectonic movements might cause the whole mega-balloon to rise to the surface and reverse all the “good work”.
What unbelievable, total CR*P!!

I say, what an absolutely spivving idea old chap! Why all the negativity? Since it’s China doing most of the C O two-ing these days, and since because of it they have lots of money, why don’t they do it? Let them fund it and lead the way to show us how much they care about our beloved planet and then we can follow suit. Perhaps.

To store for when we run out of fossil fuels and can longer emit the CO2 fertilizer to keep agriculture from crashing…

Mike Maguire

“To store for when we run out of fossil fuels and can longer emit the CO2 fertilizer to keep agriculture from crashing…”
This is the only authentic scientific reason for justifying a consideration of doing such a ludicrous thing.
Still an absurd idea but at least it recognizes the profound value that CO2 has as a beneficial gas.
When we run out of fossil fuels and hopefully have invented a new, reliable way(s) to obtain energy to replace them(or can do so well before they run out), CO2 will in fact, finally get a fair hearing.
Once CO2 detaches itself from the politics, agenda and fossil fuel connection, maybe authentic climate science(and biology/agronomy) can start to be restored to pure science again.


I really get nervous when people start talking about storing CO2 in large quantities anywhere on earth. If that gas ever escapes, it will kill every living thing in its path. Just remember two facts- CO2 is heavier than air and CO2 is an asphyxiant.

James Kramer

Trebla: how true. Indeed there a volcanic lake in Afrika that was loaded with CO2 in deep layers from a volcanic source. The lake overturned, sending the deep layers to the surface and killed many people living around the lake. I think engineers have built a powered aeration system to prevent a recurrence.
Looks like there are three lakes: Nyos, Kiba and Monoun. Hard to see how that would happen with ocean water from 10,000 feet down tho. But of course costs will block this stupidity.


“When we run out of fossil fuels and hopefully have invented a new, reliable way”
We, Kemo Sabe? We will be dead.

Keith J

Ocean acidification? It will dissolve in seawater.

John M

Why not change it to CaCO3 and dose it out to Alarmists for antacid relief?

Crispin in Waterloo

Read the full story? Why? Of all the inane ideas I have heard this is about the most inane. It is record inanity.
How much energy would it take to make liquid CO2 out of the atmosphere in order to pump it down there?
The fastest way to have geo-engineering that removes live-giving CO2 from the atmosphere ‘at scale’ is to fertilise the ocean with iron powder to promote the fixing of carbon in the shells of microscopic sea creatures. They will sink to the bottom all by themselves.
If applied at scale, it would be possible to remove every last molecule of CO2 from the atmosphere and the ocean, if fanatics so desired, going one better than putting all of it at the bottom of the sea. Perhaps the prospect of a lifeless, frozen planet appeals to them.


You are one letter off. It’s insane, not inane.

Sceptical lefty

It’s not insane if you can make a decent(?) living from it.


Iron fertilization seems to work and is pretty cheap compared to almost any other method of getting rid of atmospheric CO2. link It is possible that the 2012 Haida experiment led to an increase in salmon. link
I have observed that wildlife officers don’t actually care about individual critters. They just want their policies followed no matter what. I suspect that environmentalists are the same. Even good things, like increased salmon, are bad to them because it disrupts their chosen narrative. Pigs.


Regarding your observation of wildlife officers, it is a bit like ‘I love humanity, but hate people’ attitude that can be observed in the more ‘progressive’ sectors of our community.

Richard Bell

In fairness, the concept is not as insane as it sounds at first blush. Dry ice sinks in water and sinks faster in sea water, so you convert CO2 gas to dry ice in a big enough chunk that most of it will not change state before it sinks far enough to prevent further CO2 bubbling off (sheath it with a layer of pycrete thick enough to insulate it, but not enough to bouy it) and it will flow along the bottom to the lowest level as a liquid and stay there, until it finishes dissolving into the surrounding ocean (which will take some time). Load these megaliths of dry ice on ships and dump them overboard onto the abyssal plains.
The only truly insane part is that it needs doing.

It doesn’t need doing. 1.4C over 350 years is trivial.
TCR is 1.4C for a doubling of CO2. 1750-2100 = one doubling.


Assuming that the energy required to do all this will come from fossil fuels. For each ton of CO2 deposited in the bottom of an ocean trench, how much CO2 will be added to the atmosphere?

Filippo Turturici

Sinking CO2 deep into oceans, is anyway better than sinking taxpayers money deep into solar mega-projects.

Dave Yaussy

What could go wrong, right?


Sure, it must be perfectly safe. Has there ever been a catastrophic release of carbon dioxide by a body of water? Well, beside that killer African lake thing, but that was different, …

Walter Sobchak

Murphy is my co-pilot.


Whoa, wait a minute, I thought CO2 caused ocean acidification, now they want to directly dump it in the ocean? At least try to stay on the same page.

Dr. rer. nat G. E. Wolfgang Zernial

Please more of this nonsense, CO2 is not dangerous, we need it for our plants and life.


Looks like they want to go deep enough in the ocean that the CO2 sinks. Actually, that may be how nature deals with the CO2—oh, wait, never mind. Nature could never be that clever.

Steve Case

Carbon dioxide sequestration is right behind geo-engineering as the stupidest idea coming from the left side of the political spectrum. Both schemes are entirely without merit.

John M



Carbon sequestration seems at least a little less permanent and “mad scientist” in nature compared to geo-engineering.

Steve Case

That’s why it’s right behind and not in front of geo-engineering.


Got it—I missed the clever order thing. 🙂


There is also a good chance that a fraction of the CO2 will dissolve away and effectively kill all surrounding aerobic organisms. Another ecological good deed with loads of disadvantages. Pretty much, most environmental suggestions break what was not broken or creates new even worse problems. They almost always ruin things, in some cases everything. Sigh.

I doubt there are any aerobic organisms 3,000m (just shy of 10,000 feet or 4,384 psi) below sea-level


“which is now agreed to be no more than 1.5 °C above that in preindustrial times”
Agreed by whom?
The world’s temperature has been 3 to 5C above “preindustrial” times 3 times in the last 5000 years, and the world thrived each time.
The world’s temperature is finally clawing it’s way back to what it was before the Little Ice Age, and these fools are panicking?

Tom Halla

And just what was the temperature in 1850? Given the paucity of the records, HADCRU and GISS get to “adjust” and “infill” to their hearts content.

Dwight Myers

Anyone remember Lake Nyos?

Curious George

That’s the idea. The underlying problem is an overpopulation. To solve it they want to kill as many people as possible (anyone but their family).


What happens to the marine life that lives in the bottom of that trench now?


What happens to the marine life that lives in that trench presently?


Sorry for the double post. The first one disappeared without a trace, and those usually don’t come back.

New record in stupidity.

D. J. Hawkins

I doubt it will stand long. Check back here tomorrow.

Let’s find out if CO2 is a problem or a boon to the biosphere before we have a competition of really stupid ideas to try and get rid of it. So far the evidence is in CO2’s favour: greener more productive biosphere, much nicer climate than 150 years ago, humans enjoying the best, longest and most numerous lives we’ve ever had and the rapid development of human civilization being driven by the burning of fuels whose consumption has marginally contributed to the CO2 we measure in the atmosphere. Let’s also not forget beer, bubbly wine and … well just about any carbon based-life form you might think of.


“CO2’s favour: greener more productive biosphere, much nicer climate than 150 years ago,”
Be Careful. To the uninformed, this statement might give the impression that CO2 is responsible for the climate’s current condition.There is no evidence of that whatsoever. There is no evidence that CO2 adds any net heat to the Earth’s atmosphere.


1.5C above preindustrial times? moved goalpost acknowledged! Also preindustrial times, what, as in the age of dinosaurs? That was preindustrial and a good 10C warmer than today! The whole argument is based on balderdash.
Provided the state curve for the pressure depth keeps CO2 liquid at the pressure and temperature in the deepest ocean, a lake of CO2 would stay beneath the liquid H2O as it is heavier. There would be diffusion across the boundary interface but not a great deal. If there are no currents nearby, the pool could sit there forever (or at least for human memory). The question I would have is “why would one want to hide away all this plant food where no one will ever see it again?” Do they hate plant life that much?

Walter Sobchak

Why do they want to starve the plants, and the animals that eat the plants, and the animals that eat the animals that eat the plants? Why? What do they have against plants?


“My Mama always told me “Stupid is as stupid does””.
-Forest Gump…smarter than your average AGW climate scientist.

Leon Brozyna


john harmsworth

I already have a stupid, expensive and useless hobby. I don’t need another one!

D. J. Hawkins

Own a sailboat, eh? 😉

john harmsworth

A number of important advances have been made toward converting CO2 to liquid hydrocarbon fuels efficiently and cost effectively. It appears that before long, CO2 will be an important renewable resource! No doubt complete with crowds of Greens rallying to decry any “misuse” of Nature’s Golden Molecule.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia

What volume of CO2 are these idiots imagining they can “pool” in this fashion?


All of it.

Clay Sanborn

A better idea would be for Superman to inhale all the “extra” CO2, fly into space, and fart it.


That’s almost as stupid an idea as the underlying paper.


Carbon dioxide in earths atmosphere has been on a downward trajectory over millions of years, to the point where all life on earth is at risk for extinction when CO2 levels drop below 150 ppmv. Especially during the depths of every ice age advance when a healthy percentage of the northern hemisphere is covered in ice sheets a mile or more thick.
Dozens of Megafauna species went extinct in the last 20,000 years when CO2 levels were at 180 ppm for an extended period of time at the peak of ice sheet advance, and the only explanation that has any real credibility is that their food source that had been available throughout their evolution over millions of years, was becoming very limited south of the ice sheets due to very low levels of atmospheric CO2 (and very cold stormy weather) not allowing the plants to grow to support the food chain that had co-evolved with much higher levels of atmospheric CO2 in previous epochs.
It has been wide scale warming and greening of the earth in this interglacial that has led to an explosion of humans on the earth, especially in the last 250+ years since we started using fossil fuels. If we had not utilized fossil fuels and increased the ultra low amount of CO2 in earths atmosphere the last 250+ years comparative to the preceding levels of CO2 when life/plants evolved, all life on earth will be at risk for extinction when future ice sheet advances and earths natural processes slowly turn atmospheric and oceanic CO2 into geological carbon sinks.
While the scheme to store liquid CO2 in an ocean trench is ludicrous from a perspective of energy use to do so, at least if this hair brained scheme was ever enacted, we could at least easily pull it back out and release it to earths atmosphere when it will be needed to keep all life alive on this beautiful planet we call Earth. It is time to stop demonizing CO2 as the sole source of adverse climate change, which it is not and history will bear this out.


It should be hare brained (as in rabbit)


Could we store carbon dioxide as liquid lakes under the sea?

Absolutely ludicrous.

Peter Morris

Ohhhh this made me laugh.
I needed a good laugh.

Steve Zell

This is a really dumb idea.
Most substances which can exist as a liquid have a “vapor pressure curve”, which plots the minimum pressure at which the substance remains a liquid as a function of temperature. This curve ends at the critical point, which is the maximum temperature at which the substance can be liquefied. Near the critical point, if the liquid slightly below the critical temperature is heated to above the critical temperature, there is a sudden and possibly violent (explosive) expansion.
For carbon dioxide, the critical point is about 31 C (88 F) and 73.8 bar (1071 psi), meaning that if carbon dioxide was compressed, condensed, and pumped down below the bottom of the sea, the liquid CO2 could be exposed to geothermal heat and undergo rapid, explosive expansion, essentially causing man-made earthquakes, which could also cause tsunamis if they occurred under the sea.
It is true that sea water in deep trenches is cold (about 4 C or 39 F), which could avoid the heating problem, but there would need to be a physical barrier between the liquid CO2 and sea water, to prevent the CO2 from reacting with water to form carbonic acid (a reaction which releases heat). At 3,000 meters depth, this barrier would have to withstand a water pressure of about 4,200 psi without leaking. It is unlikely that the “plastic sausages” proposed by Ken Caldeira could withstand such pressures without being crushed–they would probably need steel containers several inches thick, which would be extremely expensive to manufacture.
It would be much cheaper to build an 8-inch high seawall around coastal cities every century to prevent the rising ocean from flooding them. The Dutch have been doing this for centuries.


It would not have to withstand 4200 psi, as the material on either side is incompressible it would get a uniform 4200 psi from either side with no shear and tear pressures.
It is still a dumb idea, but not for that reason.

D. J. Hawkins

You’re not going to have an explosion. At 6,000 meters depth, the pressure is about 590 bar. Since it is well above the critical pressure, at any temperature above the critical temperature it’s going to be a supercritical fluid. No boom. Still not a bright idea for many other reasons, but no boom.

When the pools of liquid CO2 were observed in the Pacific Ocean about 10 years ago they were separated from the ocean above by a layer of CO2-hydrate.comment image
“The answer to the apparent conundrum surrounding the very existence of this phenomenon is that the lake is maintained in place by a surface pavement and a subpavement cap of CO2 hydrate (CO2·6H2O) that traps the low-density liquid CO2 in place. At the temperature of the seafloor at this depth, such a CO2 hydrate should be stable (4), leading to a structure similar to that shown in figure 1 of the Inagaki et al. article (1), in which a surface pavement overlies a layer of CO2 hydrate that serves as a cap for the subsurface lake.”
Also at depths of 3,000m the paper said:
“CO2 hydrates also form at these depths, suggesting that large subsurface lakes of liquid CO2 capped by hydrates could be excellent locations for the large-scale injection and disposal of CO2 (3).”
So this idea has been around for quite a while.


This is not something new. It is mentioned at this more than ten years old page:

Peta of Newark

C’mon peeps, y’all being a bit less than charitable here.
We’re getting a damn good education from all this –
I knew diddly squat about Sumdaystramtrams Trench this morning and just look at me now – fully up to speed about roughly where it is and, plus or minus 1, how many trillions it’s got.
What’s a trill between friends eh – justa bitta loose change innit
And we know from Climate Science, if a computer got to know this, there may be A Projection (scary huh) and it could, maybe, likely, possibly, experts think (I struggle to believe that actually but..) be a Tipping Point.
Ah man, Not had a good tipping point for aaaaages.
Could never happen in England tho – there’s signs everywhere saying ‘No Tipping’ and ‘£50,000 Fine’
Just try firing an apple-core outta yer car winda – that’s you marked for life.
That’s No Lie
And this guy wants to dump how many ‘apple core’ equivalents of carbonoxide into Sumdays TramTram?
It’ll be unprecedented, that’s for sure. Bound to make somebody’s willy look really big, whoever works it out.
(Reaches for calculator, wondering just how many apple cores per unit CO2, my Bramley tree is sagging badly………………………..)

Greg in Houston

This guy Goldthorpe, who professes to have a BS in Chemical Engineering, has been publishing similar tripe since 1992. Twenty-five years of grants, no doubt!
How do I get a job publishing galena (PbS) for twenty-five years with an undergraduate degree in in chem e?


Greg, maybe that BS in BS in Chem Engineering doesn’t mean what you think it means:-)))

Greg in Houston

Email old Steve and tell him what you think.

What is the point of hiding the CO2?

Leo Smith

we need all the CO2 we can get to turn into natures own storage mechanism
Oil gas and coal.
In the meantime. agricultural produce just got cheaper…


On the tip of Sumatra, Mobil found the Arun field in 1971, with 16 trillion cubic feet of gas, 500 million barrels of condensate, and 17% CO2. At one time that gas generated 25% of the electricity in Japan. All the hydrocarbons have been burned, and all that CO2 was separated out and vented to the atmosphere. Somehow, man survived.

Esther Cook = Lady Life Grows

THIS is why WUWT is so important. Carbon is the basis of all Life on Earth. Our alarmist enemies absolutely HATE human life, and many hate every living thing. Eventually, the nonsense will be defeated one way or another, but how much damage will they do in the meantime?
Health and vitality are the real issues. We will not win by worrying over much about temperatures–nobody really cares unless they believe the nonsense about rising sea levels or hurricanes or something. Something that affects safety, life, bodily well-being.
The grad student at Denver’s Ice Core lab thinks “climate optimum” means extremes, hot or cold. His degree is in geology: that is what they are teaching them these days. A generation ago, geologists learned about paleontology and “climate optimum” meant a warm period, because that is where the greatest variety and abundance of fossils was found.
The whole scream story is an attack on Life–ALL Life. Get that.
Life, vitality, well-being. That is what it is really all about. That is what we must emphasize.


Carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, plus some other elements, are the basis of life, to include water. But specifically, a compound of carbon and oxygen, CO2, is the trace gas essential in the food chains based upon photosynthesis. That includes virtually all multicellular eukaryotes, ie plants, fungi and animals, and much of the unicellular eukaryotic and prokaryotic worlds.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia

Of course there is another minor fly in this CO2 remedy and that relates to the hugely active earthquake and volcano zone in which Sumatra is located. Possibly not the best choice of places, especially after giving attention to Steve Zell’s excellent contribution.
And I loved the Superman response. Fancy, there’s me thinking Superman was just a story book character!


For those who believe in the radiant greenhouse effect, the primary greenhouse gas is H2O and not CO2 so what is being proposed will do very little to change the over all radiant greenhouse effect. We cannot store any more H2O in the ocean trenches than what is already there. Anything that we add to the ocean floor will cause sea level rise which we do not want to happen. But furthermore there is plenty of scientific rational to support the idea that the climate sensivity of CO2 is really zero so changing CO2 levels in the atmosphere will have no effect on climate.
The AGW conjecture depends upon the existance of a radiant greenhouse effect provided for by trace gases that have LWIR absorption bands. One problem with that concept is that good absorbers are also good radiators so the so called greenhouse gases do not trap heat energy any more than all the other gases in the atmosphere. A real greenhouse does not stay warm because of a radiant greenhouse effect. A real greenhouse stays warm because the glass limits cooling by convection. It is a convective greenhouse effect. Same too on Earth where gravity limits cooling by convection. From first principals the Earth’s convective greenhouse effect keeps the Earth’s surface on average, 33 degrees C warmer then if it were at the black body radiator equilibirum temperature. 33 degrees C is the derived amount and 33 degrees C is what has been observed. Additional warming caused by a rediant greenhouse effect has not been observed. A radiant greenhouse effect has not been observed anywhere in the solar system. The radiant greenhouse effect is science fiction. Hence the AGW conjecture is science fiction.
We need to face reality. The climate change that we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans over which Mankind has no control. If Mother Nature has her way as has happened over at least the past million years, our current intergalcial period will end and the real problem will be global cooling. dropping sea levels, and contentinal ice sheets. But it seems most likely that it will take still thousands of years for the current intergalcial period to end.
The real problem is that over eons, too much carbon has been sequestered in the form of fossil fuels and carbonate rocks. When the next ice age hits the oceans will be absorbing more CO2 causing a reduction in atmospheric CO2 that may prove dangerous for the existance of plant life. Our current adding CO2 to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels may not be enough.

Loren C. Wilson

What couldn’t go wrong here? Active geologic area, change in ocean currents, (insert many more possible events) and you think the CO2 pools are just going to sit there?


Has anyone heard of carbonate rock like marble, limestone and others? They precipitate in warm shallow seas, usually with the assistance of a few microorganism (i.e. Diatoms). It’s been going on for eons. Just look at the Grand Canyon and the vertical cliffs are carbonate rock which represents 1500 feet or more of stored CO2 from hundreds of millions af years ago.


Has no one though of storing it in the atmosphere where it does nothing but good?


better question is SHOULD we store it/…..
and answer is a resounding hell no!!


The VERY BEST place to store any CO2 we get as a by-product to electricity generation, cement making etc…. …
is in the atmosphere WHERE IT BELONGS !!!


If they wanted to lower the atmospheric concentration by 50ppm, Back to their beloved 350ppm, how much liquid CO2 would that entail and what kind of effect on sea level would that have.
Sorry, it recently chimed Gin O’clock or I’d try the math myself.

Keith J

I will get out paper and pencil right now. 50 ppm of atmospheric pressure multiplied by earth surface area divided by 68 pounds per cubic foot is the approximate volume…the density is a SWAG so I best research. Molar weight of 44 for carbonic anhydride.


Thanks for that, had a quick go and while the gin has made me draw a cat, my first rough stab at it was a not very scary figure. Still it’d be a beautiful pristine environment wiped clean of life, most of it probably unknown life.

Robert Christopher

Chemical plants have been developed that remove CO2 from the air using solar power – the colloquial name for them is trees. 🙂
They even grow bigger all by themselves!

Bill Illis

Even though this is a dumb idea that would result in some disaster I imagine, somebody actually published this study in “Science”.
It is so dumb, it actually got published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals there is.

Yeah, what could go wrong? Volcanoes warm stuff, warm CO2 rises as a giant bubble and sinks a ship and/or kills a pile of people.

Bruce Cobb

How about we instead store the carbonistas 20k leagues beneath the sea, and plant trees? Win-win!

Could we … drill a hole in the top of our heads and plunge into it a fat knitting needle then vigorously stir it for several minutes.
Then we would all be obedient environmentalists and believe in catastrophic global warming and the need to remove life-sustaining CO2 from the atmosphere and bury it deep underground.

Gary Pearse

How do we get these vacuous geniuses back into their little play modules. The solubility of CO2 is legend. I was impressed when my daughter carbonated a sizeable bottle for drinking water in about a second in a unit equipped with a small CO2 capsule. The water Dr Doolittle is targeting is only 2C, too! Is there now a lake of CO2 in the trench – there would be if this physicist was correct. I’d venture to say the entire atmospheric content of it would have already been there millions of years ago.

This is yet another crazed suggestion from CAGW Loony Land. It is a non-solution to a non-problem. Storing CO2 in the atmosphere, as at present, is an excellent solution.


“it is becoming increasingly likely that we will have to actively remove the gas from the air to keep Earth’s temperature at a safe level ” How about recognizing increased CO2 has negligible impact on the heating of the planet and spare the cost of any foolish solutions that nothing more than a waste of money. Worse yet they may become the source of problems created by their implementation. These are large scale projects that have the potential to negatively impact the environment on their own.

James Kramer

Something these SJW ‘scientists’ seemed to neglect is the environmental consequences of their actions. The bird and bat killing windmills are an excellent example. In this case dumping that CO2 into a trench would exterminate all living things below. Now these aren’t high density ecosystems but there are a surprising number of living organisms down there. A unique environment too.