Measuring, Monitoring and Verification of Geological Carbon Storage

Carbon storage is a process in which CO2 emissions (captured from industrial sources) are transported by pipeline to sites where they are injected into deep rock formations for permanent storage. CO2 emissions from human activities are the leading cause of global climate change.

Why Is this Research Important?

Canada’s energy resources—in particular Alberta’s large resources such as oilsands, coalbed methane, and bitumen carbonates—have advanced significantly in their potential to supply energy to world markets.

Protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are important elements in ensuring Alberta’s ability to accomplish the following:

  • Meet its and Canada’s own power needs
  • Expand export markets
  • Ensure that it obtains maximum value from its resources

Developing these immense and unique resource deposits depends on the following:

  • Efficient and economic extraction technologies
  • Reducing, storing, and effectively using CO2
  • Improving land restoration processes
  • Improving our understanding the environmental impact of resource development

This Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative research field focuses on ways to store CO2 (produced through processing bitumen and heavy hydrocarbons such as coal) to reduce or eliminate the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A report from the ecoENERGY Carbon Capture and Storage Task Force estimates that carbon capture and storage could store roughly 40% of Canada’s projected emissions in 2050.

However, significant barriers block the widespread implementation of carbon capture and storage technologies. Although the basic carbon capture and storage technologies are known, the costs are high, and serious questions are being asked about safety, performance, validation, regulatory requirements, and liability.

Scientific Background

Our research projects all relate to a CO2 management policy framework that addresses long-term liability issues – including project life, post-closure, and monitoring, measurement, and verification requirements.

The objectives of this research area are as follows:

  • Better quantify and detect the location and containment of the CO2 plume in the reservoir and quantify the actual amount of stored CO2 in the reservoir
  • Improve detection of any unintentional migration of sequestered CO2 from the injection horizon
  • Better integrate monitoring, measurement, and verification outcomes into effective risk management frameworks for geological storage
  • Fully understand the mobility of the CO2 and brine mixtures through the target reservoir
  • Identify how varying degrees of purity in the injection stream (e.g. 90% CO2 and 10% CH4) will impact reservoir and bounding seal formation properties
  • Detect possible leakage paths, both geomechanically induced (e.g. faults and induced fractures) and through wellbores
  • Understand the operational constraints presented by leakage paths (e.g. maximum injection pressures and average reservoir pressure)
  • Develop strategies to mitigate observed leaks (e.g. wellbore remediation)

Research Coordinators

Dr Cornelia Schmidt-Hattenberger
Senior Scientist
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Centre for CO2-Storage
Potsdam, Germany

Dr Rick Chalaturnyk
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
3-070 Markin/CNRL NREF
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Coordinating Institutions: