The CO2 Field Lab project gathers a consortium of industries and institutes that have shown a strong involvement in CO2 storage site management and in CO2 storage site certification from the early stages. Although a well-chosen and well-designed storage site is not expected to leak, the issue of leakage has to be addressed. Therefore, this project comprises two controlled releases of CO2 in the shallow and very shallow subsurface in a Norwegian field setting. The CO2 displacement in the subsurface and at the surface will be monitored with an exhaustive set of techniques deployed by the different partners. Such an approach will enable us to:
The geological storage of CO2 is viewed as one of the acceptable options to slow the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and thus to mitigate climate change. At this stage, several projects have contributed to the demonstration of the technical feasibility of geological storage. The commercial development and upscaling of sequestration capability are the current challenges.
Should those be overcome, the market for CO2 storage is expected to boom in the coming years. However, several hurdles remain. One of the barriers to commercial upscaling is that there is currently no protocol for monitoring, verifying and accounting (MVA) the CO2 stored in the reservoir, and therefore no monitoring and reporting guidelines. Another potential barrier that should not be overlooked is the public acceptance of CO2 storage. Demonstrating the capability to detect leakage, so that remediation can be effected, will contribute to gaining public acceptance.
A project such as CO2 Field Lab is a unique opportunity to help overcome those barriers and make significant progress towards full-scale deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
Regulatory status in Europe
Two directives have been approved by the European parliament in December 2008, and will be implemented in State laws by the members in the next two years.
- The Carbon Capture and Storage Directive focuses on the implementation and on the safety of storage sites. It mentions that the “monitoring plan should enable the detection of significant irregularities, migration and leakage outside the storage complex.”
- The European Trading Scheme Directive has been amended so that it includes CCS. Therefore, a standardised set of monitoring protocols will need to be defined to monetise carbon credits. This includes the capacity to detect and quantify leakage. If leakage occurs, emission credits must be surrendered.
Even though the detection of CO2 outside the storage complex, and the quantification of CO2 leaking at the surface are explicitly required by these two directives, protocols to perform such tasks are not mature.
The absence of MVA protocols does not stem from the need for new technologies but rather from the lack of relevant field tests. Indeed, many techniques are potential candidates for leakage detection outside the storage complex. Some are inherited from the oil and gas industry (seismic, electromagnetic methods, sea bottom gas sensors…), while others come from a water management context (water permanent monitoring, sampling and chemical analysis etc…) and are expected to be sensitive to dissolved or gaseous CO2 migrating to the surface. However, the required spatial and temporal resolution of each of these techniques for detecting CO2 leakage is not well understood. As for the detection and quantification of leakage at the surface, CO2 sensors such as accumulation chambers or atmospheric towers are available commercially. But the level of natural background variations at the surface is such that the capability of detecting and quantifying a leak with any combination of such techniques remains a challenge.
To this day, CO2 Field Lab provides an unique opportunity to demonstrate the sensitivity of each technique, and to propose a methodology for designing an MVA plan and protocol to certify it.
These developments will facilitate compliance with the two directives mentioned in the previous section, which at present cannot be strictly enforced.
An equally strategic factor for the commercial deployment of storage is public acceptance. Having a certified protocol for monitoring, verifying and accounting in the shortest possible term will contribute to gaining public acceptance. The balance of partners in the project (operators, certifying bodies, public and private organisations) is a strength that is considered critical for achieving this goal.
The CO2 Field Lab project aims to be a building block in the foundations of future CCS activity. This project represents the first worldwide attempt to monitor and model CO2 plume migration from the injection point up to the surface.
Published March 12, 2010