WASHINGTON, DC To prevent global warming, researchers and policymakers are exploring a variety of options to significantly cut the amount of carbon dioxide that reaches the atmosphere. One possible approach involves capturing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide at the source an electric power plant, for example and then injecting them underground.
While theoretically promising, the technique has never been tested in a full-scale industrial operation. But now MIT engineers have come up with a new software tool to determine how much CO2 can be sequestered safely in geological formations.
The work will be reported Nov. 18 at the 9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT-9), to be held Nov. 16-20 in Washington, D.C.
According to the 2007 MIT study, "The Future of Coal," and other sources, capturing CO2 at coal-burning power plants and storing it in deep geological basins will mitigate its negative effects on the atmosphere.
However, injecting too much CO2 could create or enlarge underground faults that may become conduits for CO2 to travel back up to the atmosphere, said Ruben Juanes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) and one of the authors of the work. "Our model is a simple, effective way to calculate how much CO2 a basin can store safely. It is the first to look at large scales and take into account the effects of flow dynamics on the stored CO2," he said.
Already Juanes and co-author CEE graduate student Michael L. Szulczewski have applied their model to the Fox Hills Sandstone in the Powder River basin straddling Montana and Wyoming. They found that the formation would hold around 5 gigatons of CO2 more than half of all the CO2 emitted by the United States each year.
A geological basin is a large underground bowl between 100 and 1,000 kilometers wi
|Contact: Elizabeth Thomson|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology