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Earth Science

Fracked Shale Could Sequester Carbon Dioxide 235

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the delerium-tremens dept.
MTorrice writes "The same wells that energy companies drill to extract natural gas from shale formations could become repositories to store large quantities of carbon dioxide. A new computer model suggests that wells in the Marcellus shale, a 600-sq-mile formation in the northeastern U.S. that is a hotbed for gas extraction, could store half the CO2 emitted by the country's power plants from now until 2030."
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Fracked Shale Could Sequester Carbon Dioxide

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  • Why not.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThatAblaze (1723456) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @03:21PM (#44896165)

    There's something ironic about extracting oil, burning it, and then putting the resultant CO2 back in it's place. Unfortunately, if this is only in the computer model stage it will probably be 2030 before it even has a chance of getting implemented.

    That is, unless we come up with some catchy slogans to rally behind, I suggest: "Make the world a soda, carbonate our shale!"

    • There's something ironic about extracting oil, burning it, and then putting the resultant CO2 back in it's place.

      That must be the most roundabout way possible to use that fusion reactor that's just 8 minutes away.

  • by Wycliffe (116160) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @03:23PM (#44896187) Homepage

    Let's store the next 30 years worth of excess carbon dioxide in huge underground chambers
    so that instead of gradual climate change that the environment can adjust to and compensate
    for we instead have a massive catastrophic climate change when one of those chambers
    springs a leak.

    • The oil doesn't come out of chambers. It's a lo more like a sponge. Also this is a real old idea not sure why it's making /.
      • by asylumx (881307)
        Thanks, yes, I was pretty sure I read about this exact same idea about a year ago (and I think it was even here on /.)
    • Uh... its miles down, under millions of PSI. The CO2 is in liquid form under that kind of pressure. The kind of earthquake it would take to release that would be so large, the CO2 would be the least of our worries.

      • by danbert8 (1024253)

        It would be more accurate to say over a kilometer rather than miles and thousands of PSI instead of millions. But the net result of it being extremely unlikely to be released is still true.

    • by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:03PM (#44896565)

      Rock hasn't been known for its impenetrability to water, otherwise basements wouldn't need sump pumps.

      Of course, CO2 + water = carbonic acid, which has a tendency to dissolve rock. We will likely see those chambers leak sooner or later.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:17PM (#44896691)

      we instead have a massive catastrophic climate change when one of those chambers springs a leak.

      A lot of people forget that material properties change with pressure and depth. The first time the Alvin submersible found black smokers (active volcanic vents) on the mid-oceanic ridge, they moved in for a closer look. They found out afterwards that they'd recorded temperatures close to 400 C. The melting point of Alvin's portholes was far less than 400 C [whoi.edu], and they would've died if they'd stayed there too long. People see liquid water, and just assume the temperature is below 100 C and therefore the glass portholes are safe. But at the depth they were at, the pressure is much higher and thus the boiling point of water was around 400 C.

      I did some quick research. Fracking is typically done 2-3 km underground. The ground temperature at that depth [mpoweruk.com] is about 75 C. The pressure at that depth [spec2000.net] is about 200-300 bar (atmospheres).

      Looking at the phase diagram for CO2 [wikipedia.org], that's in the supercritical fluid phase. So the CO2 wouldn't need to be pressurized at that depth like it has to be at sea level. The ground pressure alone would be enough to prevent it from reverting to a gas, and thus it would be impossible for the chamber to catastrophically spring a leak. The only way that could happen is if another drilling operation tapped the chamber and suffered a blowout. Normally that doesn't happen - they keep the bore filled with heavy mud to maintain the pressure at depth. But occasionally (e.g. Deepwater Horizon) there is a blowout, the pressurized mud is lost, and the liquid/gas underneath is then squeezed out by the surrounding rock through the "straw" (bore). I don't see this as being any more risky than regular oil drilling. If anything it's safer since CO2 is pretty inert and won't catch fire. The biggest risk would be the CO2 gas pooling in a depression and suffocating anyone/anything inside.

    • To be fair, this is just PR to make fracking out to be something good we should allow in our backyards. No one intends to ACTUALLY solve climate change this way. That'd cost MONEY!
      • No one intends to ACTUALLY solve climate change this way. That'd cost MONEY!

        Not if you get creative, this could be funded entirely by carbon offset credits.

  • Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot.uberm00@net> on Thursday September 19, 2013 @03:25PM (#44896195) Homepage Journal
  • What is with all this fracking schist?

  • This article is tagged fracking. I do not think it means what you think it means. You know, this being slashdot and all.
  • Co2 in water forms a mild acid. It could be rather dramatic in its effects on water quality and also if limestone is present or several other kinds of rock the reaction might be rather violent over time. Try growing your house plants on carbonated water and you will rapidly see the problem. Maybe we could pump enough Coke syrup down with the CO2 so that the Earth could spew an interesting beverage. Let's rank the notion of down pumping CO2 as absurd.

    • Carbonated water - It's What Plants Crave!

      Yeah, so besides pushing in toxic who-knows-what to get at the gas we will add in tremendous amounts of some who knows what it will do CO2 back into to the mix. So, now the earths surface is like some giant rug we are sweeping our grime into.

    • by kick6 (1081615)

      Co2 in water forms a mild acid. It could be rather dramatic in its effects on water quality and also if limestone is present or several other kinds of rock the reaction might be rather violent over time. Try growing your house plants on carbonated water and you will rapidly see the problem. Maybe we could pump enough Coke syrup down with the CO2 so that the Earth could spew an interesting beverage. Let's rank the notion of down pumping CO2 as absurd.

      Funnily enough, they're pumping metric shitloads (exact measurement) of CO2 into the ground in order to scrape the last little bits of oil off of the rock. Seems to work a treat... We call this tertiary recovery or a "CO2 flood." Nothing violent seems to be happening over time.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:08PM (#44896605)
    The problem is we are un-sequestering it in the first place.
  • It isn't enough to sequestrate the CO2. Part of the sequestration will include O2 needed for life. It would be much better to plant billions of trees which free up the O2 for humans and animals. Please, do it naturally, as man made attempts are often very short sighted.

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:17PM (#44896695) Homepage

    "could store half the CO2 emitted by the country's power plants from now until 2030." -- Yes, well, but that can't actually be done... Additionally, 2030 isn't very far away. If I'm going to sell my future humans down the river I would prefer them not to be alive right now -- Or more importantly: I would like to be dead long before they realize we rigged their short lot on the temporal lottery.

    Here, let me demonstrate how bullshit the claim is:
    Sunlight at Earth's surface could provide ALL of the energy needed by mankind for the foreseeable future.

    See? It 'could'. However, CAN we overcome the greed barrier and actually do so? Not fucking likely. Could, Should and Would, CAN go fuck themselves. Let me know when these mother frackers commit a 'Will'......

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Yup. "How much does it cost compared to other methods of generating energy?" is the question. And the answer is "More than solar and wind, making coal uncompetitive."

  • by Kevin Fishburne (1296859) <kevinfishburne.eightvirtues@com> on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:24PM (#44896745) Homepage
    Speaking purely out of ignorance, since plants consume CO2 and release O2 you'd think people would be researching ways to genetically engineer plants or algae or something that could live in an artificial environment and act as a filter through which CO2 could be continually pumped until it reaches a "safe" threshold and then released into the atmosphere. Think of an aquarium, where the water is continually cycled through a filter, except when the water gets clean it would automatically empty and be refilled with new dirty water. I think the idea of just "sticking the shit somewhere" is a bit beneath us, excuse the pun.
  • And in other news..

    "The same seas that we evaporate and drive boats across could become repositories to store large quantities of plutonium. A new computer model suggests that holes in the Atlantic Ocean, a 106400000 sq-kilometres formation right next to the U.S. that is a hotbed for water, could store all the radio active waste emitted by the country's power plants from now until 2080."

    0_o

  • To leave a few surprising presents for future generations
    some with long term effect, the radiating thingies and the ones with immideate effect - odorless, colorless gas taking your breath away.
  • Re: all the comments about infeasibility or time required to make this a reality... It's already being done. An exhausted oil bed in Weyburn Saskatchewan is being used to sequester CO2 from a power plant in the US - Montana I believe. The issue there now is that CO2 is heavier than air, so when it comes out of the fracked rock formation it tends to hug the ground in low-lying areas. A farmer local to the project has already claimed that the gas is leaking and killed several of his lifestock. Google around,
  • by stomv (80392) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @04:59PM (#44897095) Homepage

    The *cost* of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is way, way too high to do this. Even with cool tech, you've got to build the power plant right next to the sequestration site -- which means getting the fuel to the site -- which means building right of way, pipelines or rail, etc. Transmission lines too. Then you take the performance hit in the generation to run the sequestration equipment.

    It's cheaper to build big wind in the breadbasket, lesser wind offshore, solar on roofs and in the southwest, bits of biomass and geothermal where it works, and use transmission to move it around. What about no sun or wind? Well, it's windy or sunny someplace nearly all the time in tUSA, but yes we'd have to use our ~21GW of pumped hydro storage differently, maybe build more, maybe use electric vehicles (EVs) for storage, maybe upgrade our infrastructure to change when we demand electricity [run electric hot water heater, air source heat pumps extra when flush with renewable generation so that we use them less when we'd be short]. All of that is way cheaper than CCS, and as a bonus it won't leak the carbon later, it doesn't require creating mini earthquakes, chopping off the tops of mines, figuring out what to do with the ash, the SOx, the NOx, the Hg, and other pollutants, the nuclear waste, how to deal with water shortage or water temperature problems, and on and on and on.

    Look, I've been on slashdot 15 years or so. I know the community believes in nuclear power. The answer to CCS is the same as nuclear: it's too expensive. You can argue breeder or reprocessing or any number of other things, but the age of cheap gas has killed any nuclear renaissance, and the age of plentiful cheap wind in the breadbasket, plentiful expensive wind on the coasts [where electricity is expensive anyway], and plummeting PV costs means that nuclear and coal are dead for economic reasons, it's just a matter of time.

    (footnotes) I didn't bother to provide links, but you might check out "2012 Wind Technologies Market Report," the economics behind the closures of Vermont Yankee and Kewaunee, "Analysis of Drought Impacts on Electricity Production in the Western and Texas Interconnections of the United States," the recent output reductions at Pilgrim and Millstone nuclear plants due to the Cape Cod Bay and Long Island Sound water too hot for cooling, how Xcel Colorado electric utility is procuring 450 of MWs of wind and 170 MW of solar because it's cheaper than gas, coal, or nuclear, and on and on and on. We built loads of coal in the 50s and 60s, nuclear in the 70s and 80s, combined cycle natural gas units in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and now those will operate until retire, while being replaced with wind, solar, some new gas, and energy efficiency. Know why? It's the cheapest way to do things. CCS (and nuclear) aren't, not by a long shot. There's no reason to think that they will be, either.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      To do anything with the shale on or near a power plant site would have serious seismic consequences.

  • I would prefer separating the C from the O2 rather than simply putting it away somewhere. And can it seriously put enough CO2 away to make a difference? I doubt it very much.

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