Water Could Sequester CO2 – if We Let It Be

A new study shows that deep underground water reservoirs have been safely storing carbon dioxide for millions of years and could possibly help slow climate change.

This kind of carbon capture and storage would be possible should scientists be able to locate ancient deep water systems thousands of meters underground, said Chris Ballentine, a University of Manchester researcher  who worked on the study.

“We want to bury carbon dioxide in the ground, that is a no-brainer,” Ballentine said. “The big question is when we put carbon dioxide into the ground, how safe is it?”

Carbon capture – seen by many around the globe as a key in the fight against global warming – could potentially keep up to one third of all GHG emissions out of the atmosphere.

This technology is, however, commercially untried and expensive, around $1 billion Euros per power plant.

Ballentine and his team analyzed how CO2 dissolved in water and how it reacted to rocks at nine natural gas fields in North America, China and Europe filled with the greenhouse gas thousands or millions of years ago following volcanic eruptions.

The researchers discovered that underground water was a major carbon sink in these fields and had been for millions of years.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature, found that most rocks do not store CO2 and that water is instead the perfect storage system.

“Our study clearly shows that carbon dioxide has been stored naturally and safely in underground water in these fields,” noted Stuart Gilfillan, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, who worked on the study.

This study reveals a larger issue – that of the developing water shortage around the globe. With so many countries seeking deeper acquifers to meet their growing population demands for water, how will we balance this against these same acquifers’ potential for GHG storage?

And perhaps an even more important question is: can we really self-manage in a way that maintains this balance?

Historically, we don’t have a very good track record for doing so. Quite the opposite in fact. The real question may be can our leaders wade through all the issues and come up with a solution that doesn’t rob Peter to pay Paul?

One Response

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