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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: September 28th 2009


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:: Carbon Capture and Storage - Possible Perils

One of the themes of MEIís Climate Change and the Minerals Industry í11 conference is the development of new technology, such as carbon capture and storage.

This all looked so promising - tidy carbon dioxide away underground and forget about it. But even as the USís first large-scale sequestration operation is getting off the ground at the Mountaineer plant in West Virginia , geophysicists are concerned that burying the carbon could trigger earthquakes and tsunamis, according to an article in New Scientist.

In a carbon sequestration power plant (CCS), CO2 is extracted from the exhaust then pumped into aquifers and old gas fields several kilometres beneath the Earthís surface. However the CO2 expands as it rises through the porous rock, increasing pressure inside. ďIf enough CO2 is injected into an aquifer, it could increase the pressure enough to reactivate a fault and trigger an earthquake," warns Andrew Chadwick of the British Geological Survey. Chemical reactions between the injected CO2, water and rock could also destabilise the rock, says Ernest Majer, a seismologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California who briefed the Senate on CCS hazards last week. ďItís such a new technology that none of these issues have been addressed," says Majer. Even storage sites far from human settlements could have disastrous effects, warns Christian Klose, a geophysicist at the Think Geohazards consulting firm in California. A CCS facility at the Sleipner gas field in the North Sea, may have triggered a magnitude 4 earthquake in 2008. Had it been bigger, says Klose, it might have triggered a tsunami.




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