CO2 storage low risk and achievable

Preparing the 28m instrument assembly at the Otway Project Stage 2
Preparing the 28m instrument assembly at the Otway Project Stage 2

Around 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide have been safely injected 1.5km below ground at Nirranda South, in western Victoria, marking a milestone for emissions reduction technology.

The latest experiment from CO2CRC, a collaborative research organisation focused on carbon dioxide capture and geological sequestration, demonstrates the safety and long-term viability of CO2 storage.

More than 120 terabytes of data has also been collected and sent to Perth for analysis, which CO2CRC chairman Martin Ferguson said is a significant advance for in-field research of large-scale carbon storage and monitoring.

“This experiment proves that CO2 storage is low risk. We can confidently inject, store and predict how the CO2 will behave below ground,” he said.

“The capacity of storage sites is many hundreds of times greater than the annual CO2 emissions from industrial sources like power plants and refineries. There is enough storage capacity to store our emissions for the next 200 years. The work of CO2CRC proves that if we effectively put CO2 deep underground into these formations, we have a way of meeting global energy needs at the same time as tackling climate change.”

In the recently completed injection trial, CO2 was pumped into a saline rock formation throughout four months at CO2CRC’s Otway Research facility. Deep saline formations, have securely held billions of tonnes of carbon underground for millions of years, which CO2CRC said demonstrates to scientists that rock formations are a natural and safe home for captured carbon.

“They are porous rocks that contain a fluid trapped by cap-rock, in this case water that is unusable because of its high salt or mineral content. These formations are widely found around the world and, critically, often in areas with high CO2 emissions but with little oil and gas production. Their abundance means that the cost of transporting CO2 from the emitting source (a power plant for example) and will make carbon capture and storage a most cost effective solution,” CO2CRC said in a statement.

In a study to bring further cost efficiencies to industrial emissions reduction technology, fibre optic cables and a high-resolution buried receiver were fitted with automated communications devices so researchers could remotely observe and operate this advanced surface and subsurface monitoring system.

“The equipment tested offers us several options to reduce the surface monitoring activities required to verify the CO2 movement which means further cost efficiencies for industry,” Mr Ferguson said.

CO2CRC’s research partners Curtin University in Western Australia, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in the US, and CSIRO, continue to work collaboratively on the analysis of the massive collection of data.