Permanent carbon dioxide storage in deep-sea sediments

Kurt Zenz House, Daniel P. Schrag, Charles F. Harvey, and Klaus S. Lackner, 2006. Permanent carbon dioxide storage in deep-sea sediments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103(33): 12291-12295.


Stabilizing the concentration of atmospheric CO2 may require storing enormous quantities of captured anthropogenic CO2 in near-permanent geologic reservoirs. Because of the subsurface temperature profile of terrestrial storage sites, CO2 stored in these reservoirs is buoyant. As a result, a portion of the injected CO2 can escape if the reservoir is not appropriately sealed. We show that injecting CO2 into deep-sea sediments < 3,000-m water depth and a few hundred meters of sediment provides permanent geologic storage even with large geomechanical perturbations. At the high pressures and low temperatures common in deep-sea sediments, CO2 resides in its liquid phase and can be denser than the overlying pore fluid, causing the injected CO2 to be gravitationally stable. Additionally, CO2 hydrate formation will impede the flow of CO2(l) and serve as a second cap on the system. The evolution of the CO2 plume is described qualitatively from the injection to the formation of CO2 hydrates and finally to the dilution of the CO2(aq) solution by diffusion. If calcareous sediments are chosen, then the dissolution of carbonate host rock by the CO2(aq) solution will slightly increase porosity, which may cause large increases in permeability. Karst formation, however, is unlikely because total dissolution is limited to only a few percent of the rock volume. The total CO2 storage capacity within the 200-mile economic zone of the U.S. coastline is enormous, capable of storing thousands of years of current U.S. CO2 emissions.

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