Mechanical CO2 Sequestration Questioned

Andy Revkin does not succumb to the “view from nowhere” on mechanical sequestration of CO2 in mineral formations.

He tweets:

New study: Lots of leakage foreseen in CO2-capture quakes … More evidence CCS at scale a pipe dream: …

(A bit shocking really, a purportedly neutral journalist taking sides on an open question. Keith Kloor, are you as taken aback as by my position on Easter Island?)

The new study talks about leakage rates of 1% per 1000 years being a showstopper.

Zoback and Gorelick state that even a fault slip of a few centimeters could allow stored CO2 to reach the surface – a serious concern, since the researchers argue that carbon repositories need a leak rate of less than 1 percent every thousand years to be effective.

“The bar is much higher in this case,” Zoback said.

But isn’t that too high of a bar? My sense is that even 10% per 100 years would be a big help. That’s two orders of magnitude we are arguing about. But if we could eliminate 90% of the short-term carbon pulse we might yet save the oceans, and it would greatly slow the rate of climate change (and presumably cut down on wild events as well).


  1. Hmmm. This seems joined at the hip with questions about the safety of fracking; fracking makes impermeable rock permeable while sequestration relies on maintenance of impermeability. Both systems involve massively pressurizing rock formations while relying on incidental material properties to function properly.

    We can't engineer rock formations so there's a lot of luck involved in both cases.

    Perhaps further research on fracking safety will help answer questions about the viability of native C02 storage. Both questions need for us not to hide our heads in the sand and pretend there's no problem.

    Fracking has turned into a new sphere of research battling against instant PR, as demonstrated in this newspaper item. Presumably the situation with sequestration is also evolving into this increasingly familiar scenario, making wise decisions needlessly difficult.

    Quite a game of "twister" we're playing with hydrocarbons.

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