Status of Geological Storage of CO2 as Part of Negative Emissions Strategy

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Sally M Benson, Stanford University, School of Earth Sciences, Stanford, CA, United States
Recent analyses show that many GHG stabilization scenarios require technologies that permanently extract CO2 from the atmosphere –so-called “net negative emissions.” Among the most promising negative emissions approaches is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The most mature options for CO2 storage are in sedimentary rocks located in thick sedimentary basins. Within those basins, CO2 can be stored either in depleted or depleting hydrocarbon formations or in so-called saline aquifers. In addition to the economic costs of bioenergy with CO2 capture, key to the success of and scale at which BECCS can contribute to negative emissions is the ability to store quantities on the order of 1 Gt per year of CO2.

Today, about 65 Mt of CO2 per year are injected underground for the purposes of enhancing oil recovery (CO2-EOR) or for CO2 storage, the vast majority being for CO2-EOR. Achieving 1 Gt per year of negative emissions will require a 15-fold scale up of the current injection operations. This paper will review the conditions necessary for storage at this scale, identify what has been learned from nearly 2 decades of experience with CO2 storage that provides insight into the feasibility of COstorage on this scale, and identify critical issues that remain to be resolved to meet these ambitious negative emissions targets.

Critical technological issues include but are not limited to: the amount of CO2 storage capacity that is available and where it is located in relation to biomass energy resources; identification of sustainable injection rates and how this depends on the properties of the geological formation; the extent to which water extraction will be required to manage the magnitude of pressure buildup; identification of regions at high risk for induced seismicity that could damage structures and infrastructure; and selection of sites with a adequate seals to permanently contain CO2. Social, economic and political issues are also important: including the support for and confidence in the projects by the local population; scale at which these projects are financially feasible; resolution of issues such as who pays and who benefits from these projects; and development of regulatory frameworks that are at the same time, environmentally protective and not overly burdensome.