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AGU meeting: Stanford scientists subject rocks to hellish conditions to combat global warming
Date:12/1/2011

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This technique has allowed Benson's team to generate detailed, three-dimensional maps showing the real-time movement of carbon dioxide through tiny pore spaces between individual grains of rock.

"We're making observations on a spatial scale that people have ignored in the past," Benson said. "Before, you could only estimate the average properties of a rock. Now we can tell you the precise carbon dioxide saturation and relate that to other rock properties in a quantitative way. "

Among the most important properties for large-scale carbon storage is permeability a measurement of how easily fluids flow through a porous rock formation. The higher the permeability, the more carbon dioxide can be pumped into the rock.

"We developed a new imaging technique that allows you to determine the permeability and capillary pressure down to the individual pixel," Benson said. "Nobody has done that before. Because we can observe the rocks so carefully and control the amount of CO2 in them by the experiments we do, we've been able to learn a huge amount about what happens in a real CO2 sequestration project at a much larger scale."

Leakage potential

A major focus of Benson's research is leakage potential: Will stored carbon dioxide gas eventually escape its underground prison and return to the atmosphere?

Because carbon dioxide is soluble in water, scientists worry about the consequences of water leaking from an underground reservoir. Will dissolved carbon dioxide gas be released and eventually reach the surface?

"It's like when you open a bottle of Perrier water," Benson said. "You release the pressure and little bubbles of carbon dioxide come out. But is there a big risk of that happening underground? Do we have to not only worry about carbon dioxide getting out of the reservoir, but also about water containing carbon dioxide escaping?"

To address the problem, Stanford graduate student L
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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