A team of Earth scientists at Stanford University is subjecting chunks of rock to hellish conditions in the laboratory all in the name of curbing climate change.
By exposing a handful of rocks to high temperatures and pressures, the scientists have obtained critical new data about the large-scale underground storage of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas and leading cause of global warming.
"About 60 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions come from power plants, refineries and other industries," said Sally Benson, professor (research) of energy resources engineering at Stanford. "One way to significantly curb global warming is to capture carbon dioxide from industrial smokestacks and store the emissions in geologic formations thousands of feet below the surface."
Benson and her colleagues have conducted numerous experiments on rock core samples and analyzed the results in microscopic detail. The goal is to predict how minute grains and pores in rock will affect the flow of vast quantities of carbon dioxide pumped deep into the ground.
"We want to see where the carbon dioxide moves, how fast, how much gets dissolved and how much gets trapped," said Benson, director of Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project.
On Dec. 6 and 7, she and members of her lab will present their findings at the 2011 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.
Over the past five years, Benson's team has collected cylinder-shaped core samples of sandstone and other rocks from various sites in North America. Each core roughly the size of a beer can is placed in a special chamber and subjected to high temperatures and pressures similar to those found a half-mile or more underground.
"We then inject carbon dioxide and water into the rock cores and take X-ray CT scan just like the CT scan you'd get if you had a back injury," Benson explained
|Contact: Mark Shwartz|