Geotimes

From the Editor

This month's word is sequestration. Meanings include seizure, seclusion, segregation and monkhood. Perhaps the most apt meanings, given the use of the word in this issue's feature articles, are adsorption, complexing and "withdrawn from circulation." Other uses include quarantine and punishment, seemingly insidious allusions to the Faustian use of fossil fuels in the first place. Better late than never, this issue focuses on the potential of geologic sequestration of the greenhouse-forcing gas carbon dioxide, which we have for centuries produced by burning of fossil fuels.

In our first feature, S. Julio Friedmann identifies the most promising types of geologic sites for carbon dioxide sequestration as oil and gas fields, unmineable coal seams, saline aquifers, oil shales and mafic rocks. The first two offer potential for enhanced oil and methane production, leading to profitable or near break-even operations. The last three become increasingly costly because using them produces no valuable co-product and the costs of sequestration increase significantly. Furthermore, these geologic sites will remain, at best, only promising for storage of large volumes of carbon dioxide until questions about reservoir heterogeneity and integrity, brine-rock-gas interactions, acidification and corrosion and related technical and engineering uncertainties have been studied. Pilot studies are now underway at many sites to begin to answer these questions.

In our second feature, the Geotimes staff write about some of these projects. One potential saline aquifer site is the Frio Formation along the Texas Gulf Coast, as Kristina Bartlett describes in "A Salty Burial." This summer a consortium of industry, government and academe will inject carbon dioxide into the brine-saturated aquifer and monitor the invasion and containment of the gas. A similar but much larger saline aquifer injection has been underway in the North Sea since 1996. In both cases, researchers want to know how well the aquifer seal contains the carbon dioxide and the effective capacity of the aquifer as constrained by heterogeneity, brine-gas-rock reactions and the like. This option is a costly one because it produces no valuable co-product. But it is attractive because there are so many saline aquifers.

In "Oil Fields: Giving and Receiving," Bartlett describes the profitable transport of byproduct carbon dioxide from the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in North Dakota to an injection site in the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, Canada. This process is economical and uses proven technology. It warrants further study to improve criteria for evaluating other sites. Describing another economically favorable project, Lisa M. Pinsker, writes in "Value Added in Coal Seams" about industry injecting carbon dioxide and nitrogen into coal seams in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico in order to enhance methane recovery. A similar project is underway in Poland.

Our final feature, "Making Rocks," touches on a very different, less direct storage method. Christina Reed introduces research on storing carbon dioxide through chemistry: altering mafic rocks by injecting solutions rich in carbon dioxide.

This month's Comment, "Milestones in Earthquake Research," is a timely juxtaposition for our carbon sequestration focus. Robert M. Hamilton tracks the origins and evolution of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program over its 25-year history. He identifies two lessons from that history that apply equally to the nascent carbon sequestration programs. First, success will be favored by integrating all relevant disciplines, including competing communities. Second, link research together with information and technology transfer and, simultaneously, implementation to demonstrate proof of concept and feasibility. I wonder what a 25-year retrospective of the carbon sequestration industry will look like? Thanks to you, Bob, and to each of our authors.

Believe your compass,

Samuel S. Adams
Geotimes Editor-in-Chief


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