On the heels of President Obama’s unveiling of his national climate change action plan, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released the first-ever detailed assessment of national geologic carbon sequestration potential – how much carbon dioxide could be safely and permanently stored using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
The USGS finds that the U.S. has the potential to store about 3,000 metric gigatons of CO2 in geologic basins throughout the country. The total storage potential in 36 basins around the country is more than 500 times the 2011 annual U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.
The assessment is the first to identify technically accessible carbon storage capacity - those that can be accessed using today's technology and pressurization and injection techniques. The most common method is to pressurize CO2 gas into a liquid, and then injecting it into subsurface rock layers for long-term storage.
This assessment goes further than all previous assessments in considering the viability of sequestration. For example, all areas with groundwater sources that are considered freshwater by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards were eliminated from consideration for carbon storage resource potential in this assessment. In addition, the rock layers included in the assessment were limited to those determined to have sufficient natural seals to prevent CO2 from escaping. This assessment also focused only on rock layers located at depths at which CO2 would stay under sufficient pressure to remain liquid.The study did not evaluate economic viability or the accessibility of storage resources due to land-management or regulatory restrictions.
The geologic carbon sequestration assessment includes these publications:
- National Assessment of Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resources—Summary Fact Sheet
- National Assessment of Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resources—Detailed Results
- National Assessment of Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resources—Data
USGS continues to refine the science that must underpin the application of CCS to power plants and industrial facilities. Amid loud and continued calls for the advancement of CCS to combat the looming catastrophe of global climate disruption, the multi-faceted question of its economic viability must receive urgent attention.