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Plans for field laboratory for CO2 storage

Norway could soon have one of the world’s first field laboratories for studies of CO2 storage in bedrock.

Seven Norwegian research groups, led by the research organisation SINTEF, are to find out whether a land-based laboratory of this sort can be set up.

“Such a laboratory would supply us with knowledge more cheaply and rapidly and under better controlled conditions that we could obtain in any other way,” says chief scientist Erik Lindeberg of SINTEF Petroleum Research.

“At present, we have to study how Statoil is storing CO2 from the Sleipner field 1000 metres beneath the seabed, or BP’s storage site 2000 metres below the Algerian desert. In industrial projects such as these, we have to adapt to ongoing production conditions, and it is difficult to design experiments that can give us the measurements that we really want,” says Lindeberg.

Hunt for the right place

The seven research groups have been awarded some NOK 2 million by Gassnova, the national gas-power technology centre, to produce an estimate of what a field laboratory would cost – and to identify a suitable site: an area where scientists can inject CO2 down into sedimentary rock on land in order to study in detail how stored CO2 behaves in bedrock.

Results will help to make storage safer

Storing CO2 in bedrock means storing it permanently in the pores of porous rock types, either on land or under the seabed. This type of storage of CO2 from coal or gas-fired power stations is regarded as an important way of limiting rises in the greenhouse effect.

The planned Norwegian laboratory is part of efforts to ensure that CO2 can be safely stored in bedrock. Safe storage requires that it should be possible to predict and monitor the diffusion of CO2 under the surface with a high degree of accuracy. This in turn requires methods and tools that have been refined and calibrated via controlled experiments.

Corrective measures lead to more robust storage concepts

The greatest CO2 storage capacity is found in geological strata whose pores are filled with saltwater.

If it turns out that CO2 has started to leach out of such formations, various corrective measures will be possible. The simplest is to cut off the supply, as long as no more CO2 has already been injected than will enable the leaking gas to be absorbed by the seawater. If the worst comes to the worst, the CO2 can be brought back to the surface and re-injected in another, more secure geological formation.

Testing monitoring equipment

The idea is to use the field laboratory for studies that will demonstrate just how small CO2 leakages can be discovered with the aid of monitoring equipment.

The sooner a leak can be identified, and the smaller the amounts that can be demonstrated, the sooner will it be possible to implement corrective measures.

The laboratory will be an important arena for trialling present and future generations of equipment for demonstrating the presence of CO2. A field laboratory equipped to perform studies of this sort does not exist anywhere in the world today.

Pilot project of decisive importance

The study being financed by Gassnova is a pilot project that is intended to clear up whether – and where – it would be a practical proposition to build a laboratory of this sort, and how much it would cost. The conclusions drawn by the pilot project will be decisive in determining whether industry and the authorities will go ahead and finance such a laboratory.

Broadly-based cooperation

The pilot project is being carried out by a group of Norway’s most important geoscience research institutes: SINTEF Petroleum Research, the University of Bergen, the University of Oslo, the Institute of Energy Technology (IFE), the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), the Norwegian Institute of Water Research (NIVA) and the Norwegian Geological Survey (NGU). SINTEF is managing the pilot study.

The study will be carried out during the second half of 2006. Gassnova, which exists to promote the development of future-oriented, environmentally friendly and efficient gas power technology, is supporting the project to the tune of MNOK 2,285.

“By joining forces on a national project of this sort, we are assembling scientific breadth and top-level expertise that can help to CO2 storage take a major step ahead at national and international level,” says Svein Eggen, a senior adviser with Gassnova.

Aase Dragland | alfa
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