The International CCS Knowledge Centre has launched a new video series. The series, “Lead. Care. Adapt,” features 10-minute discussions with sustainability experts working to advance climate action including the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) around the world.
In the second video in the series, GCCC’s Katherine Romanak talks about the opportunities for CCS in developing countries and explains the support available to these regions to help move projects forward. Watch the video to learn what the Gulf Coast Carbon Center is doing to to lead, care, and adapt today for a better tomorrow.
Summary: In 2018, the GCCC was awarded a large grant by the Department of Energy to study carbon capture and offshore storage in the western Gulf of Mexico. Together with partners in the eastern Gulf, the project leaders hosted their second annual partnership meeting entirely via webinar after travel plans to New Orleans were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Recently, the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) joined the Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) for 2 days to conduct their annual joint partnership meeting—for the first time via webinar. Participants provided key updates on the research projects they lead on carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Gulf of Mexico region.
In 2018, the GCCC and the SSEB became principal investigators of two
different multi-million-dollar projects funded by the Department of
Energy (DOE) to explore carbon capture and offshore geological carbon
storage in the subsurface under the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of
Mexico Partnership for Offshore Carbon Storage (GoMCarb), led by the
GCCC, explores the potential in the western Gulf region from western
Louisiana to Texas. The second project, led by SSEB and called SECARB
Offshore, explores the potential in the eastern Gulf region from eastern
Louisiana to Florida.
GoMCarb researchers gave updates throughout the first day on topics ranging from characterizing the subsurface geology of potential CO2 storage sites to transportation and infrastructure needs, risk assessment, subsurface monitoring, and stakeholder engagement in the GoMCarb project. GCCC members, including Susan Hovorka, Tip Meckel, Alex Bump, Sahar Bakhshian, Emily Moskal, Dallas Dunlap, and Iulia Olariu, gave presentations. Presentations were also given by partners at the U.S. Geological Survey, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Rice University, Lamar University, Total, Trimeric, and The University of Texas at Austin petroleum engineering, geophysics, and advertising departments.
The SECARB Offshore and the GoMCarb projects advance and mature a
series of offshore studies funded by the DOE. At the meeting,
researchers presented maps of dozens of structurally defined fetch and
trap areas with the potential to be developed as storage complexes. The
internal sedimentary architecture of several areas shows favorable
stacked traps and seals as well as defines the bounding faults. New work
on infrastructure has advanced the potential for pipeline reuse, and,
for the first time, risk-assessment work considered the impact and
mitigation of offshore well blowouts that intersect stored CO2
plumes. The researchers are excited about the opportunities ahead for
offshore CCS in the Gulf States, matched by the recent uptick in
The GoMCarb project runs through 2023. Each year, the GCCC and SSEB hold a joint partnership meeting to provide updates. For more details on the Gulf of Mexico Partnership for Offshore Carbon Storage, visit the project webpage.
The Energy Institute funded a proposal co-written by the Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) to find out how to implement and assure long-term underground geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the technical, legal, policy, business, and community level. The University of Texas at Austin (UT) cross-disciplinary project is co-led by Susan Hovorka of the Bureau of Economic Geology’s GCCC and LeeAnn Kahlor of the Moody College of Communication. Other team members are from the Cockrell School of Engineering, the School of Law, and the McCombs School of Business.
The Energy Institute put out the call for proposals titled, Fueling a Sustainable Energy Transition. More than 30 applications were submitted from 127 researchers and GCCC’s project was 1 of 11 projects awarded. The goal is to find solutions to provide affordable and reliable energy in the world’s movement towards sustainable energy.
Carbon storage is long-term
One method to reduce atmospheric emissions of CO2 is carbon capture and
storage (CCS). Fossil fuel combustion with the release of the greenhouse gas CO2
is one part of the problem. In addition, many industrial processes, like
chemical, cement, and steel manufacturing, emit CO2 yet remain
without a viable mitigation option besides CCS. Many sustainable technologies,
such as renewable energy generation, rely on these industrial processes.
To achieve the needed reduction in emissions, geological storage must be effective
in permanently retaining CO2 that’s injected into the subsurface.
How do we provide assurance that the project is effective?
The project collaborators approach this question from a variety of angles, according to their expertise. Under the proposal titled “Assuring Long-term Storage of Captured CO2: Technical-Legal-Policy-Business Models,” the team proposes to study three strands they expect will help provide needed confidence and support large-scale implementation.
While the technologies used in geologic storage are mature and provide high
technical confidence that stored CO2 is trapped in the deep
subsurface over long periods, translating this into certainty that can be used
to underpin a large business investment is a new challenge. Interest in
investment is growing, but the needed confidence remains poor.
Geoscientists use novel techniques to confirm their predictions
Understanding the multitude of ways that CO2 and the underground brine water interact within pore spaces in rocks is needed to predict the long-term consequence of that interaction. Pore-scale fluid interactions that trap CO2 have been modeled at GCCC previously but the new project will build pore-scale micromodels to experimentally validate the predicted interactions. Upscaling this to a level relevant to the total CO2 injected into an underground rock will determine how the fluid movement stalls overtime underground and be critical to gaining confidence in storage permanence. These experiments and computer modeling will be compared to projects at field sites so that scientists will be able to better predict the stabilization of CO2 underground.
Action requires coordination of business, policy, and regulation
If CCS is to move in a direction that tackles significant national or global emissions, then risk will transfer from the public (everyone is affected by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) to the private, corporate environment (emitters taking action to store their greenhouse gases). Precedent and mechanisms for creating legal and policy frameworks to support long-term storage will be assessed. Translating the geotechnical language to appropriate commercial and regulatory communications will help provide financial assurance and risk avoidance to manage long-term liability for storage.
Everything depends on effective communication
The scientific justification for CCS is to combat the greenhouse gas CO2 from entering the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change. At present, many public stakeholders in areas where CCS is likely to be deployed—such as Texas—are not aware of CCS nor its potential to mitigate climate change. Because large-scale CCS implementation will require public support, it is imperative that the technology’s mitigation potential be recognized by public stakeholders. Therefore, the social scientists in the project will employ survey methods with a probability based sampling strategy to test a variety of messages and phrases in hopes of making the connection between climate change, CO2, and CCS clear and apparent. This work will help improve communication efforts aimed at building awareness of longterm storage.
“We know a fair amount already. For example, public awareness of CCS is low, awareness of the benefits leads to more support,” project co-lead Lee Ann Kahlor said. “But we also know that, at least in Texas, people aren’t aware that CCS is a way to mitigate climate change. So that is our goal – to make that connection clear. On the surface, it sounds really simple. But rest assured, if it was simple we wouldn’t need to be doing this work.”
Transferring confidence to the whole energy ecosystem
By approaching the topic from a variety of angles, UT scientists will help
answer one of the longest standing and complicated issues in CCS: confidence in
long-term geological storage.
The Energy Institute promotes research at UT that makes a global impact on the future of energy.
Other projects awarded include sustainable energy topics such as nextgen battery packs, solar-powered water purification, electricity infrastructure for extreme weather, predicting ecosystem carbon capture, optimizing carbon capture processes, and managing climate change and land-use planning in urban areas, among others.