NRG 0.1

October 19, 2007

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Role of Geologic Storage of CO2

Lynn Orr (Stanford)
[Lecture will be held in Ramo]

There is a consensus that we humans will need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases substantially in this century if we are to avoid unacceptable modifications to climate and the biogeochemistry of the ocean.  Hence the important question is:  how are we to do that?  The challenge, to change the world’s energy systems, is a huge one, and there is no single, simple solution to it.  We need to improve energy efficiency dramatically, move increasingly to use of energy resources that have low or zero net emissions of greenhouse gases (solar energy, some biofuels, wind, nuclear power, geothermal power, …), or to the extent that carbon stays in the fuel mix, capture and store an increasing fraction of the CO2 that results.  This talk explores the potential for use of large-scale storage of CO2 in porous rocks in the Earth’s crust.  It considers the following questions:

  1. Can we capture the CO2 efficiently?
  2. Do we have enough variety of geologic settings for storage?
  3. Is there sufficient volume available in the subsurface to store enough CO2 to have an impact?
  4. Are there appropriate physical mechanisms that will immobilize the CO2 in the subsurface to design safe storage projects that won’t leak?
  5. Can we predict where the CO2 will go and can we monitor adequately where the CO2 went?
  6. Do we have enough experience with actual operations to undertake storage at scale?

he answers to these questions depend on the geologic setting, but there is enough knowledge and experience to support design and operation of projects at significant scale now in some of them, and research is underway on many challenging research questions involving chemical separations and multiphase flow in the subsurface to increase the base of knowledge for geologic storage of CO2.

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