Other California Sequestration Projects

University Research Program Links

Mount San Jacinto

Mount San Jacinto

Increased attention is being placed on research into technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies offer great potential for reducing CO2 emissions and, in turn, mitigating global climate change without adversely influencing energy use or hindering economic growth.

Deploying these technologies in commercial-scale applications requires a significantly expanded workforce trained in various CCS specialties that are currently under-represented in the United States. Education and training activities are needed to develop a future generation of geologists, scientists, and engineers who possess the skills required for implementing and deploying CCS technologies. Here are some University research projects currently underway in California which are contributing to this goal.

California Institute of Technology (CIT)

Molecular Simulation of Dissolved Inorganic Carbons for Underground Brine CO2 Sequestration

This project addresses the need to measure (in situ) the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in underground brine water at higher sensitivity, lower cost, higher frequency, and over longer periods of time as compared to other MVA efforts for the geologic storage of CO2. The project will focus on quantifying the risk associated with potential leakage of CO2 into overlying aquifers. CIT will perform the quantum mechanics (QM) electronic structure calculation on DIC species (e.g., CO2, bicarbonate ion (HCO3) to accurately describe the physical sequestration system at the atomic and subatomic scale.

Overall, the project will make a vital contribution to the scientific, technical, and institutional knowledge base needed to establish frameworks for the development of commercial-scale CCS. Project research will aid in the design of a quantum cascade laser spectrometer that can be used to monitor sequestration sites for possible CO2 leakage.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Molecularly Assembled Material Architectures for Solar Energy Production, Storage, and Carbon Capture

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UCLA became one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) established by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in 2009. Their mission is to acquire a fundamental understanding and control of nanoscale material architectures for conversion of solar energy to electricity, electrical energy storage, and separating/capturing greenhouse gases. It will focus on the creation of inherently inexpensive nanoscale materials (such as polymers, oxides, metal-organic frameworks) for use in polymer solar cells, electrochemical supercapacitors, and carbon capture. With regard to carbon capture, a coordinated computational and experimental effort is proposed for high-throughput synthesis, characterization and modeling of zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs). These have been shown to selectively absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. EFRC research will elucidate the correlation between the structure of a ZIF and its performance, identify the adsorptive sites within the pores of ZIFs, and develop strategies for optimizing the performance of ZIFs to affect highly selective carbon separation.

San Diego State University (SDSU)

Web-based C02 Subsurface Modeling

This project will build a 2/3D simulator with comprehensive chemical processes relevant to modeling CO2 injection at carbon sequestration sites. The primary focus is on the flow of CO2 into saline aquifers and the resulting chemical reactions.

This project will develop a user-friendly Rich Internet Application (RIA) using cutting-edge Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) Web technologies to run existing geologic sequestration simulation software modules on a network accessible cluster of machines. This Internet simulator will include comprehensive chemical and physical processes relevant for modeling CO2 sequestration systems. The modeling will include capabilities to simulate diffusive, advective, and dispersive mass-transfer, and include a comprehensive data-base of solid-phase and aqueous species properties with support for both kinetic and equilibrium reactions. The interface will allow users to graphically define a computational domain, specify boundary conditions, specify relevant reaction mechanisms, define mineral properties, and investigate the long term fate of sequestered CO2 in saline reservoirs and geologic formations.

The goal is to make this Web-based simulator easily accessible, user-friendly, and fully applicable to real-world CCS projects.

Stanford University

Rock Physics of Geologic Carbon Sequestration/Storage

This effort will establish a unified rock physics framework for quantitatively interpreting seismic observables. This research will focus on developing a deterministic workflow that will allow an expert to dial in the host formation properties as well as injection and storage conditions, to generate seismic reflection records of CO2 in space and time. Seismic reflections depend on the elastic properties and thickness of the reservoir and surrounding formations. The elastic properties of the reservoir depend on the properties of its mineral frame and the fluid distribution and pressure. Seismic imaging is a powerful subsurface imaging tool that can be used in geologic CO2 storage applications to identify subsurface features and geologic strata over a large area, as well as map CO2 plumes to confirm confinement in the target storage formations.

The primary objective of the project is to establish theoretical rock physics relations between CO2 injection into clastic and carbonate reservoirs and the resulting changes in the reservoir’s elastic-wave, electrical, and other properties. Focus will be on the development of theoretical rock physics models that can predict the changes in the mineral framework of porous rock based on geological and geochemical circumstances and the resulting changes in its porosity; elastic properties; absolute and relative permeability; and electrical formation factor. These results will directly help in quantifying remote seismic and electrical data in terms of monitoring, verifying and accounting of CO2 and selecting formations most suitable for geologic CO2 sequestration.

University of California, Berkeley

Center for Gas Separations Relevant to Clean Energy Technologies

The Center became one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) established by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in 2009. Their aim is to develop improved methods for extracting carbon dioxide from flue gases in power plant emissions, and from the methane in natural gas wells, so that the CO2 can be returned underground. Next generation carbon capture methods will have to be much more efficient than today's methods, which typically involve washing emissions and then extracting CO2 using up to 25 percent of the energy produced by the power plant.

The capture of CO2 from gas mixtures requires the molecular control offered by nanoscience to tailor-make those materials exhibiting exactly the right adsorption and diffusion selectivity to enable an economic and energy efficient selective capture or separation process. Characterization methods and computational tools will be developed to guide and support this quest.

The work involves computer modeling of new materials that more efficiently separate CO2 from other gases. Among the most promising materials are metal-organic frameworks, which are much like porous zeolites.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2

The Center became one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) established by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in 2009. Their aim is to establish the scientific foundations for the geological storage of carbon dioxide and to probe the fundamental chemical, physical, and biological processes that control the movement of carbon dioxide fluids in the earth.

The objective of the Center is to use new investigative tools, combined with experiments and computational methods, to build a next generation understanding of molecular – to – pore scale processes in fluid-rock systems, and to demonstrate the ability to control critical aspects of flow and transport in porous rock media, in particular as applied to geologic sequestration of CO2. These objectives address fundamental science challenges related to far from equilibrium systems, nanoscale processes at interfaces, and emergent phenomena.

They will focus on the geological issues surrounding sequestration, primarily how CO2 interacts with the pores inside underground rocks and minerals. The goal of the research center is to eventually understand these interactions enough to achieve the most efficient filling of pore space when rocks deep underground are injected with high-pressure CO2, and to make sure that none of the CO2 leaks back into the atmosphere. These techniques could be used to predict the performance of any subsurface storage application for long periods of time.

While their emphasis is on understanding and solving, at a fundamental science level, the problems of sequestering carbon dioxide captured from coal-burning power plants, the science of subsurface flow, however, is directly applicable to a host of other environmental and energy-related challenges, including geothermal energy production, storage of spent nuclear fuel, and recovery of oil and gas from depleted reservoirs.

Within 10 years the researchers hope to fill the many gaps in our present knowledge, including the effects of nanoscale confinement on fluid dynamics and on chemical, geological, and biological reactions with surrounding surfaces, materials, and microorganisms.

Specific research projects include characterizing the pore configuration of a wide range of sedimentary rocks, including brine-filled formations. Geologic sequestration takes place on many scales, both in space and in time – from the scale of individual molecules of rock or fluid to the geological scale of entire reservoirs, from fractions of a second to thousands of years.

Understanding chemical and microbiological interactions are among the key advances that are required. The goal is to fill the available pore space efficiently without damaging the surrounding rock, since the liquid CO2 must be stored for hundreds of years without leaking into the atmosphere.