Gas 'fingerprinting' could help energy industry manage carbon dioxide storage

October 5, 2015

A new technique for monitoring carbon dioxide could help the energy industry's efforts to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions, scientists have found.

In a new paper published in the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, researchers describe how they have used the unique signature from traces of the (helium, neon and argon) to monitor the fate of carbon dioxide stored underground.

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy generation, in particular coal burning, contribute to the increasing pace of . Carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques aim to store carbon dioxide in depleted oil and gas fields or deep aquifers, preventing it from reaching the atmosphere. Widespread use of CCS in the future could help to reduce , helping to slow global temperature rise.

The paper's authors, from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), collected gas samples in 2009 and 2012 from wells at the Cranfield CO2-enhanced oil recovery field in Mississippi, USA.

Co-author Professor Finlay Stuart of SUERC (University of Glasgow) said: "We have shown for the first time that the naturally occurring helium, neon and argon in the injected gas is a unique 'fingerprint' that can be used to monitor the movement of the CO2, and determine how it is stored.

"Before CCS can become widely adopted as a method of CO2 mitigation we need to know how effective the gas can be stored underground. The noble gases are chemically inert so they are not affected by interactions with rocks or water in the way that is, so they can be used to identify the physical processes that have affected the gas. They provide a cheap way to fingerprint injected gases in future large-scale carbon storage projects, and have the potential to provide a unique way to track the presence of deep shale gas and coal bed-derived methane in shallow aquifers during and after extraction."

Explore further: Test for carbon capture leaks developed

More information: "Tracing injected CO2 in the Cranfield enhanced oil recovery field (MS, USA) using He, Ne and Ar isotopes." International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, Volume 42, November 2015, Pages 554-561, ISSN 1750-5836, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijggc.2015.09.009

Related Stories

Test for carbon capture leaks developed

December 14, 2011

Scientists have developed the first ever fail-safe test to check for carbon dioxide (CO2) leaks from carbon capture and storage sites deep underground.

Greenhouse gas-caused warming felt in just months

June 2, 2015

The heat generated by burning a fossil fuel is surpassed within a few months by the warming caused by the release of its carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to new work from Carnegie's Xiaochun Zhang and Ken Caldeira ...

Accounting for short-lived forcers in carbon budgets

July 15, 2015

Limiting warming to any level requires CO2 emissions to be kept to within a certain limit known as a carbon budget. Can reducing shorter-lived climate forcers influence the size of this budget? A new IIASA study published ...

Recommended for you

Seals help plug Antarctic water mystery

August 24, 2016

Elephant seals have helped scientists to demonstrate that fresh water from Antarctic's melting ice shelves slows the processes responsible for the formation of deep-water ocean currents that regulate global temperatures.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

AKron
5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2015
It sounds like they're spending their time rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. How is burning even more fossil fuel to pump exhaust gas into holes even helpful?
leetennant
not rated yet Oct 05, 2015
It sounds like they're spending their time rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. How is burning even more fossil fuel to pump exhaust gas into holes even helpful?


That's what I was thinking and well put. We're way past reducing the emissions from fossil fuel energy production. CCS is an extremely expensive Hail Mary pass in a world where we need to stop playing the same game.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.