The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a report, indicating that onshore carbon storage resources across the country are sufficient to trap 500 times the country’s total carbon emissions reported in 2011.
This is the first ever carbon sequestration assessment conducted in the country. Due to the fact that storing carbon dioxide underground is strictly dependent on underlying geology and engineering practices, previous estimates have always been uncertain and varying.
However, the news sounds much better than it actually is. The main reason for that is that in order to store carbon dioxide underground, power plants need technology, which should firstly capture the gas, then compress it into a near-liquid state, and then inject it into porous rock formations. Besides the fact that this is extremely expensive, the process is still to be tested for amounts of carbon that could have any influence on our climate.
Not only that. Research groups have already identified that injecting carbon dioxide underground could cause increase in earthquake activity. As the team from Stanford University reported in June last year, seismic activity frees the trapped greenhouse gases, making large-scale carbon capture and storage inefficient.
In addition, more recent research indicated that the influence this process has on individual carbon storage sites varies widely. Depending on the subsurface geologic reservoirs, the sites could experience leakage due to geomechanical deformations. Last month, the scientists urged that before any injection takes place, systematic geomechanical appraisal should be conducted.
And while the USGS produces fancy looking maps as the one on the picture, indicating the numerous areas, which could potentially be used for carbon storage, countries like Canada are already trying to incorporate the process into their plan for reducing the carbon footprint by injecting the gas underground.
Let’s hope their attempts are carefully considered, and they don’t cause more disturbance and pollution to the environment, than what they are intended to reduce.