New Method to Assess Carbon Storage Potential Brings Hope for Mitigating Climate Change Effects



07/09/2010

Contact: Joan Moody (Interior) 202-208-6416
Jessica Robertson (USGS) 703-648-6624

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Geological Survey has finalized an innovative new methodology to assess the potential for storing carbon dioxide in underground formations and will use it to begin an assessment of U.S. potential for geologic carbon sequestration, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today.  

“This research could lead to techniques for reducing the impacts of climate change,” said Salazar, who announced a draft of the methodology in March 2009. "Rather than emitting carbon into the air, our nation can and should move toward capturing carbon emissions and storing them underground," he said. (The concept of injecting liquid carbon dioxide into rocks below the earth’s surface is called geologic carbon sequestration.)

"After public comment and extensive internal and external scientific peer review, the USGS updated the methodology to help us find the best places in the United States for storing carbon dioxide in subsurface rocks.” the Secretary noted. “By sequestering carbon produced by electrical energy generation for tens of thousands of years, we could diminish greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.” 

USGS, an agency of the Department of the Interior, developed the methodology as called for in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. As a senator in 2007, Salazar authored the provision of the Act that authorized USGS to develop the methodology. 

USGS scientists updated and refined the 2009 draft methodology during the past year to meet the challenges of estimating the CO2 storage resource potential in geologic formations. “This methodology combines innovative calculation tools with robust geologic interpretation and allows for an assessment that can characterize the storage potential in a uniform manner across the United States,” said USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator Brenda Pierce.

The updated methodology addresses the processes by which rock formations can trap and seal CO2 and also estimates the storage potential for an entire storage formation, which includes both saline formations and petroleum reservoirs. 

The USGS is conducting research on a number of fronts related to carbon sequestration. These efforts include better characterization of underground CO2 storage formations and processes that occur in these underground storage formations during sequestration, evaluation of potential biological sequestration in a variety of ecosystems, potential release of greenhouse gases from Arctic soils and permafrost, mapping the distribution of rocks for potential mineral sequestration efforts, and the possible role of gas hydrates in carbon sequestration. 

USGS issued the technical announcement on the new methodology on July 6. For a copy and more information about USGS geologic carbon sequestration efforts, visit the USGS Energy Resources Program Web site

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