Carbon gas storage cavern is the best way to obtain clean energy from a fossil fuel

Public Release: 13-Feb-2019

Carbon gas storage cavern is the best way to obtain clean energy from a fossil fuel

The Research Center for Gas Innovation is developing technology to separate CO2 and methane in oil and gas exploration and store it in offshore salt caverns

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo


The researcher said the innovation consists of injecting the CO2 and CH4 that comes from wells during oil extraction into salt caverns as a way to reduce the amount of carbon gas in the emissions. Credit André Julião

A set of technologies that is expected to have its first results four years from now is designed to resolve one of the world’s greatest oil and gas exploration challenges today: carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emission in the atmosphere.

The innovation, the result of a patent deposited in 2018, consists of injecting the CO2 and CH4 that comes from wells during oil extraction into salt caverns as a way to reduce the amount of carbon gas in the emissions.

The first “pilot cavern” may be ready by 2022 and is the result of studies carried out at the Research Center for Gas Innovation (RCGI), established by FAPESP and Shell, headquartered at the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP). The RCGI is one of the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) funded by São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP in partnership with companies.

“This is a concept known as Carbon Capture Storage (CCS). In this case, the CO2 is stored in large caverns in the salt layer itself. This is perhaps one of the best ways to obtain clean energy from a fossil fuel during the production process,” said Julio Meneghini, a professor at Poli-USP and RCGI coordinator.

Meneghini was one of the speakers on the first day of sessions held during FAPESP Week London, taking place in London February 11-12, 2019.

The site of the cavern in which the initial tests will be run has not yet been determined, but is expected to be in one of the areas that hold pre-salt oil fields. During this initial phase, it will likely be half the size of the caverns that will be used when the technology is operating at full capacity: 450 meters in height by 150 meters in width.

According to Meneghini, Brazil will be the first place in the world to use this concept, and the model could be exported to other countries. In addition to storing CO2, the cavern can also store methane and separate the two gases using gravity. Since CH4, also referred to as natural gas, has a lower density, it will remain in the top part of the cavern for possible later use. The carbon dioxide will remain in the lower part.

The researcher expects that at least the initial cavern construction tests will take place by 2022. The most optimistic scenario provides that 2022 will be the year the cavern begins operations.



Carbon gas capture

“What is new is not just the cavern, but the various innovations that go along with it, such as supersonic gas separators, compressors designed optimizing topology, and graphene nanotube membranes used to separate the gases,” said the researcher.

The new CO2 compressors are vital to the functioning of the project, given the extreme pressure conditions found there. From the water line itself, the distance from the surface to the sea floor is 2,000 to 3,000 meters in depth. That and other variables leave gas in what is known as the supercritical state.

“It has the density of a liquid and the viscosity of a gas. Therefore, a compressor designed for that specific condition is necessary. We have developed a new methodology that consists of optimizing the compressor precisely to the conditions of the supercritical fluid,” Meneghini told.

Another technology related to the carbon dioxide caverns are the gas separators. Also because of the pre-salt conditions, what is known as variable geometry supersonic separators are being developed for each composition of the mixture of CO2 and methane.

Besides that, graphene nanotube membranes are also being developed to separate the gases with the least possible energy loss.

Carbon gas capture can also occur during ethanol generation. “The captured gas may be stored or used in the food industry, in the production of carbonated drinks like soda. By doing this, negative emission values can be obtained,” said Meneghini, who explained that the experiments are still being carried out on a small scale.

The technologies are emerging within a context of increasing per capita energy demand throughout the world and the need to mitigate emissions in light of global climate change.




About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at and visit FAPESP news agency at to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at

Via EurekAlert!



96 thoughts on “Carbon gas storage cavern is the best way to obtain clean energy from a fossil fuel

  1. Oceans followed by the land biosphere have been doing good job of storing carbon for about two to three billion years, anything else done by the sub-intelligent humanoids is a simply nonsense.

        • Nothing much they could patent, injecting CO2 into oil and gas reservoirs for pressure maintenance, including salt domes, has been used successfully by oil companies since the 1960’s. Similar injection for sequestration of acid gases of which CO2 is a primary member also done for 3 decades now. It’s one of those patents that you can’t sue anyone over, because somebody will take you through their “infringing” facility they have operated for 30 years already, and your patent is kaput.

    • Vukcevic –
      Oceans followed by the land biosphere have been doing good job of storing carbon …

      Your post implies that sequestering carbon dioxide is a good idea. It looks like you have bought into the bullshit. Please stop allowing the other side to define the argument.

        • You used the term carbon instead of carbon dioxide or CO2. Carbon is black, sooty and scary. The late Dr. Stephen Schneider said to use scary scenarios. He’d be smiling.

          A “good job of storing carbon” implies that increasing CO2 is bad and needs to be stored. It’s not bad, there are lots of benefits to increased CO2 and aside from the hysterics from the press and “climate science” not much of a down side.

          There is a real propaganda war of words and dogma going on and it really is a good idea to get the terms that favor your side of the argument right.

      • Phase diagrams are physics and chemistry. Carbon Storage is a “scare” phrase, probably invented in the ordinary course of business on the oil fields. They use a lot of CO2. I don’t know which Climate Change maven captured it as a “scary phrase” that provoked alarm in many un-tutored folks. It’s sole purpose is to focus on the witless idea that can control the climate of Earth. We have some influences, especially on the local scale. However, it’s pretty poor science to imagine that there is control knob we can turn that will change the whole earth’s climate on demand.

      • Thank you for the (wait for it. . .) illuminating link. What you describe is the original Edison incandescent light bulb using a hot carbon filament in a vacuum. Maybe not bright white 4000K, but at least the light bulb illuminates the idiocy.

  2. 2H2 + CO2 => CH4

    The reaction is exothermic.

    H2 can be generated via electrolysis at 0.1V not 1.2V (Faraday).

    It is cheaper to make CH4 (Methane) than drill for it (sub US$3/GJ).

    Storing CO2 makes sense for processing back to methane.

    Sequestering it makes no sense.

    CO2 is available from many oil and gas reservoirs.

    As this will close out the carbon cycle (to atmosphere) it could be considered to be carbon neutral.

    The residue is oxygen.

    • 2H2 + CO2 => CH4 + O2
      ie, the exact opposite of burning CH4. So it will require more energy than can be obtained by burning the CH4 that it produces.
      Not very clever.

      • Burning produces water not H2. Anyway, why do we have to keep track of whether it generates or consumes energy or not? When carbon is a gas details hardly matter.

        • … which requires even more reducing power and energy, making the reaction even more endergonic.

          … and we will be destroying plant food.

    • “2H2 + CO2 => CH4 + O2

      The reaction is exothermic.”

      This reduction reaction is endothermic, not exothermic. You need to add heat to reduce CO2. The heat would be produced by burning CH4, which gas plants have in abundance. This produces CO2. The net change in CO2 and CH4 is zero.

      • Geoff probably got an F in Chemistry 101. If he took any Chemistry classes. 2H2 + O2 = 2 H2O is extremely exothermic. Delta Hf = -571.68 kJ/mol.

      • Along similar lines to a technology Bill Gates is investing

        Yes it requires energy to drive the process and generally a catalyst to boot and the problem is the cost and trying to make it economic.

        The humour is got it got green groups in a tizz because as renewable power gets better it makes for an attractive storage of the intermittent energy which can be burnt on demand. So you can harvest solar or wind energy during the day to burn it at night a greenies worst nightmare all under the guise of bringing down CO2 emissions 🙂

    • Geoff missed out 2H2 on the left and 2H2O on the right.

      The Sabatier reaction is 4H2 + CO2 => CH4 + 2H2O

      That is an exothermic reaction.

      The problem is the cost of the hydrogen, electrolysis being quite expensive.

      • Just use all the free electricity from solar and wind to convert co2 to ch4. That solves both the intermittency problem as well as the capital cost of eliminating ch4 based technology.

        Of course it ignores economics of ch4 from other sources and the value of co2 for other uses, but it is a green solution.

      • The voltage is directly related to the cost P=VI. That is the bit that drives the hydrogen cost. The issue is the power input cost and a CO2 feed. Power needs to be US$42/MWhr to get an opex of sub US$2.50 /GJ. Off peak power is OK.

        The Sabatier reaction or Sabatier process was discovered by the French chemist Paul Sabatier and Senderens in 1897. It involves the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide at elevated temperatures (optimally 300–400 °C) and pressures in the presence of a nickel catalyst to produce methane and water. Optionally, ruthenium on alumina (aluminium oxide) makes a more efficient catalyst. It is described by the following exothermic reaction.[1][2]

        −165.0 kJ/mol. It is exothermic.

        A better catalyst is available but may not be necessary.

        All this is working.

        Its cheaper to make methane than drill for it.

        • 2H2O -> 2H2 + O2 is an endothermic process. And it requires exactly the same amount of energy completely irrespective of the voltage (or other power source) used.


          • Wrong. And yes that is why its cheaper to make methane than drill for it. Splitting water can be done at a low cost.

          • And exactly how do you achieve this thermodynamic miracle? Making 1 kg of hydrogen takes 142 MJ. At 100 % efficiency, which is impossible.

          • Now you have hit on why. Its a new process that does not use the same amount of energy as using only electrolysis. About 10% of the current method. As its worth many billions of dollars I have zero inclination to tell you. There are plenty of oil companies with a whole lot to lose.

  3. vukcevic

    I agree. the cheapest and best way of dealing with CO2 emmissions is to let nature do the job.

  4. But they will be able to make a fortune out of carbon credits – which they expect you and me to pay for !

    That’s all this has going for it – under any other circumstances it would be a scam.

  5. This feature post is an example of the absolute worst of science press release reporting.
    In this case, the story is garbled to the point where we can not tell quite what it is about.
    Part 1:
    The story seems to be about storing methane and carbon dioxide together in a salt dome. They refer to the salt dome as a cavern, as in an empty space. Then we have this gem:
    “In addition to storing CO2, the cavern can also store methane and separate the two gases using gravity.”
    I guess they have never heard of diffusion and how gasses love to do it. Also that supercritical carbon dioxide is an excellent solvent for non-polar compounds and methane is about as non-polar as you get.
    Part 2:
    There are several references to a new substance which was previously unknown to the field of chemistry. I refer to the groundbreaking discovery of Carbon Gas. I wish the author spent a bit more time discussing this exciting new development.
    Part 3:
    Now we see this:
    “supersonic gas separators, compressors designed optimizing topology, and graphene nanotube membranes used to separate the gases”
    They explain these separators are vital to the operation of the salt cavern storage, right after they finish telling us that a key feature is that methane and carbon dioxide will be stored together.

    Science stories written by journalism majors.
    Just Stop, already.

      • It will be “cost neutral” because tax credits will cover the cost.

        And the tax credits will be revenue neutral because the credits will be going to businesses engaged in oil extraction activities that otherwise would be limited.

        (I’m not sure if I need a sarc tag on this or not.)

    • Carbon gas does exist. It just requires a temperature of about 4000 K. And producing it from solid coal requires so much energy that Freeman Dyson suggested that it would be possible to carry out (small) clandestine nuclear tests by doing them in a vacuumed cavern partially filled with charcoal completely surrounding the bomb. Vaporizing the coal would absorb so much energy that practically none would reach the walls to be converted to seismic waves.

      There are unconfirmed reports that it was actually tried in Nevada, and that it worked.

      • That time we nuked Mississippi – Twice.

        The US nuked a Mississsippi salt dome (twice) in the mid-1960’s to investigate how salt domes could be used to disguise/hide low yield nuclear tests. The first blast would create the actual cavern under the salt dome. It worked, the second blast was greatly attenuated by the formed cavern under the dome.

        “Project Sterling was labeled a success. Because it was detonated in a cavity in the salt, its force, as measured by seismographs, was about 100 times weaker than would have been expected with the same sized bomb placed in solid rock or salt. Thus U.S. government officials reported that Mississippi’s two nuclear blasts, as a part of Project Dribble, helped prove that in fact the seismic effect of a nuclear blast could be greatly reduced if such a blast were set off in a large cave. This suggested it might be possible for a nation to cheat on a future nuclear test ban by hiding a nuclear test. It also helped teach atomic scientists how to detect and measure such hidden blasts.”

    • Nice post TonyL,

      I had some of those same chuckles too as I read about the evil “carbon gas” and how methane and supercritical CO2 would simply self-partition in what the author apparently thinks is a ginormous cavern under a salt dome.

      As for polar substances, benzene with its aromaticity is more polar, but of course much heavier.

      I’ve noted many times here about how obvious it is when we ready stuff written by journalists with zero science grip on their subject. Climate Science journalists are worst. I can’t imagine anyone who did well (as in actually learned the material) in a rigorous 2 semester undergrad organic chem coursework would choose journalism as a career.

  6. This seems to be a marvelous way to harvest cash. The old way to get rich was to “Find a need and then fulfill it.” The new way to get rich is to “Have government declare a need and grease enough palms to be assured you’ll be the one appointed to fulfill it.”

  7. The world’s Plants need more CO2, not less.
    When will the Bioligists and other Scientists stand up to this total crap.

    • AC: Biology was the first science to have been corrupted 50 years and more ago. It became a social science to hit free enterprise over the head with. They are gleefully all-in on this humans are bad stuff, especially white males.

    • Hear, hear. Myself, I am proud of my large and vigorous carbon footprint, and I feel morally obligated to use fossil fuels as much as possible out of my love for my plant brothers and sisters. I am not adding carbon to the atmosphere — I am restoring carbon that was stolen from us millions of years ago by evil geological processes.

  8. I can see terrorists blowing these caverns up or threatening to, shouting “Death to Americans” while doing so. People freaking out that all that “poison” was released. So many ways this can be used and abused.

    • Sheri,
      The Left is infamous for creating havoc while “solving” non-problems.
      Yes, creating CO2 storage caverns is in fact unnecessarily creating a huge potential killer, while not solving a non-problem. Look at the Lake Nyos disaster in 1986 that killed 1700+ people and killed thousands of animals when a landslide subsequently caused a lake-turnover release of naturally built up CO2; being that the enormous amounts of CO2 was heavier than air and didn’t have a chance/time to mix with the atmosphere, for a too long while, it displaced all the air, and suffocated all animals immersed in its invisible cloud.
      Artificially storing wonderful CO2 in huge chambers is creating a huge potential killer. Wouldn’t want to live anywhere close to it.

      • Since CO2 is heavier than air, and the caverns will be well below ground level, how does breeching the cavern cause a problem?

        • Well, what happens when pressurized gas loses its containment. In the case of volcanoes – think Mt St. Helens – it blows 1/3 of a cubic mile of stone hundreds of feet into the air; Yosemite will blow 50+ cubic miles of earthen material into the air.
          And CO2 is only slightly heavier than air, so concentrations of it would eventually mix into the atmosphere. Trying to think ahead to your next question of ‘why wouldn’t the turbulence of the released CO2 make it all mix with the atmosphere, rendering it harmless?’. The answer to that is that much of it would surely immediately mix, but the sheer mass of the CO2 release would make CO2 concentration levels sufficiently high in the area around the release to suffocate animals. I wouldn’t want to be within miles of, say, a 50′ diameter hole in the ground that is shooting 100s of thousands of tons of CO2 per second into the immediate atmosphere. Much of the CO2 will flow along the ground like a deadly river for an unknown period of time, seeking low ground in which to pool for an unknown period of time. Check out the Lake Nyos story.
          In summary, we’re talking about dumb-ass legislators trying to solve for a problem that does not exist (i.e. CO2 causing undesirable global warming), by creating a Lake Nyos scenario disaster waiting to happen. It’s akin to putting up windmills in the flight-paths of birds.

  9. The announcement reads like a fractured translation (from original Portuguese?), and the translator did not have complete command of English (and likely did not have a clear understanding of the topic in the original language).

    In the US (and most other nations), invention (“innovation”) comes before related patents, rather than are the result of patents (and patents are applied for, granted, and issued, rather than “deposited”).

    Anyway, other than having issued a breathless press release, there appears to be nothing that has actually been accomplished: no testing, no proof-of-concept, and the site for the cavern to be used for initial testing has not even been identified.

    Green New Deal, anyone.

  10. 450m high, 150m wide. Assume they mean 450*150*150, ie. 10.125 million cu m.
    Density of a liquid. Say specific gravity 1. 10.125 million cu m is 10.125 million tonnes.
    Annual global CO2 emission is around 40 billion tonnes per annum.
    They will need to find thousands of new caverns every year if they want to have a meaningful impact.
    But …
    Viscosity of a gas. So it’s going to escape.

    I’m significantly unimpressed. Quite apart from the fact that sequestering CO2 is stupid.

  11. Only in the fevered brains of the greedy, misinformed, lying, cackling and drooling quasi-humanoid Climate Faithful is CO2 “dirty”.

  12. The innovation, the result of a patent deposited in 2018, consists of injecting the CO2 and CH4 that comes from wells during oil extraction into salt caverns as a way to reduce the amount of carbon gas in the emissions.

    In most cases, there is very little CO2 produced from oil wells. CH4, AKA natural gas, produced from oil & gas wells is already stored in salt caverns.

    This EureekAlert earns a Billy Madison…

  13. Note all those “also being developed” caveats.
    More hypothetical solutions for the most famous non-problem ever.

  14. This looks like another tax to make fossil fuels mor expensive. Also once these useless processes are established, regulation will make it manditory and there will be penalties and fines for keaks. This is what happened to the nuclear energy industry, stifling innovation that, by now would be safe and real competition for fossil fuels. Did you know there has heen only one death in the French nuke electricity industry and it is the most nuclearized country in the world. The worker died in a spent fuel rod facility that may have been something like a forklift accident (they don’t day how)!

    • There you go again. Nobody needs or wants your google search results link. Learn how to make a proper links to articles of interests.

  15. But no expanation of how to prevent a Lake Nyos-style CO2 blowout.
    The Lake Nyos incident killed a couple of thousand people…..


  16. Sequestering the plant food, carbon dioxide, is bad enough; sequestering the valuable fuel, methane, is insane.

  17. If ‘carbon gas’ is really CO² then shouldn’t we as likely call it ‘oxygen gas’, after all, there’s twice as much O as C in it (a bit more by weight)? Oh wait, the AOCs of this world need a bogeyman…

  18. Waste of perfectly good methane and CO2. Locking CO2 in a cavern is to a plant the same as throwing good food in the garbage to a hungry child, except that it is likely to waste a whole lot more energy in the process.

  19. By the time you scavenge the CO2 during production, and then after combustion, you’ll have no energy left to do what you wanted to do in the first place, which is to power a vehicle down the street. Bigger operations like oil platforms already catch the methane and use it to power the extraction process, as this saves them money. The CO2 is released for plants to use.

  20. This is a really good idea. Because when they discover it was a terrible idea they can let it out, no harm done.

  21. From the article: “The innovation, the result of a patent deposited in 2018, consists of injecting the CO2 and CH4 that comes from wells during oil extraction into salt caverns as a way to reduce the amount of carbon gas in the emissions.”

    Well, there are patents and then there are defensible patents. The patent mentioned above does NOT fall into the second category.

    The concept of storing compressed gases, including methane, is not new or innovative. Check out this article from 2015 that explicitly refers to doing this:

    In a Wikipedia comprehensive article reviewing the history of CCS ( ), there is direct reference to notable CCS large scale facilities that have been operating continuously since as far back as 1972, including:
    — Terrell Natural Gas Processing Plant – US (1972)
    — Enid Fertilizer – US (1982)
    — Shute Creek Gas Processing Facility – US (1986)
    — Sleipner CO2 Injection – Norway (1996); of note, this project is the “first to inject its captured CO2 into a geological feature for the purpose of storage rather than economically compromising EOR (enhanced oil recovery)”.

  22. “Carbon Capture”

    Just a future “Lake Nyos” waiting to happen. May those poor soles rest in peace.

    Imagine what an underground storage facility that held one cubic kilometer of liquid CO2 could cause in death and destruction. I figure minimum safe distance from such a facility would be about 500 miles (NO not 50, 500!).
    I know a bit dramatic, as I don’t know if that much CO2 would effervesce in an instant. But if it did, and CO2 being a heavy gas, could smother a massive area of several thousand square miles.

  23. The simpler process would be to develop bacteria designed to undertake direct reduction of the carbon dioxide . Transition metals bonded to oxygen have been show n to be adaptable to this sort of treatment, creating the zero valence metal as a direct consequence of bacteria based direct reduction. I am sure that with a bit of effort our group could develop a similar process for the direct reduction of carbon dioxide. It is much easier to handle carbon as carbon and vent the oxygen to the atmosphere.
    Worth a shot for sure.

  24. Are the Greenies so THICK, that they do not realise the dangers of storing CO2 in any large underground space. If it gets out, and remember “Murphy’s Law, it will, then by displacing Oxygen it will kill all life forms, and that includes us too.

    It has happened before.


    • It won’t kill anaerobic life forms. And plants as well as seeds and spores will probably survive long enough for the CO2 to disperse. But otherwise you are correct.

  25. John Endicott February 14, 2019 at 6:07 am

    There you go again. Nobody needs or wants your google search results link. Learn how to make a proper links to articles of interests.


    beng135 February 14, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Mods, it’s time to just delete the google links (leave the rest) this guy spews.

    John Endicott, how can you know

    “Nobody needs or wants your google search results links. ”


    “Mods, it’s time to just delete the google links (leave the rest).”

    – maybe you take a google search course so you can compete.

    • John Endicott, how can you know

      I “know” because
      1) just about everyone here knows how to use search engines (find me some people, besides yourself, who does not)
      2) just about everyone here knows there are more search engines out there than googles (find me some people, besides yourself, who does not)
      3) just about everyone here prefers direct links to specific articles rather than search page results for searches they did not ask for (find me some people, besides yourself, who does not)

    • – maybe you take a google search course so you can compete.

      you need to take a course in how to properly link to specific articles – there’s no maybe about it.

      You’ve been told several times by several people that your search results links are useless and annoying, yet you continue to persist in doing it. That’s pure rudeness on your part.

  26. What’s the effect of storing these gases on the organisms living in the caves? I didn’t see any mention of an environmental impact study.

    I suppose the supercritical CO2 could be used to extract cannabinoids in a side process before burying it. /s

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