Storing CO2 in ground “could cause small quakes”

The technology hailed as bridging the gap between using fossil fuels and renewable energy until clean energy becomes fully mature might not be as fool proof as it is hoped. […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The technology hailed as bridging the gap between using fossil fuels and renewable energy until clean energy becomes fully mature might not be as fool proof as it is hoped.

That’s according to new research which found storing carbon dioxide underground, a central part of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology could cause small earthquakes.

CCS is seen as a key way for the world’s power sector to cut its emissions from burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas.

But scientists in the US say injecting greenhouse gases taken from power plants’ emissions into underground geological reservoirs could spark tremors. These could in turn actually release some of the stored CO2, it is claimed.

In a paper published in the journal PNAS, Stanford geophysics Professor Mark Zoback and environmental Earth science Professor Steven Gorelick argue that the so-called “carbon sequestration” in many areas is likely to create pressure build-up large enough to break the reservoirs’ seals.

Professor Zoback said: “Almost all of our current climate mitigation models assume CCS is going to be one of the primary tools we use. What we’re saying is, not so fast.”

The researchers say potential carbon storage sites should be picked carefully to avoid locations with fault lines which could be at risk of seismic activity.