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Carbon Capture and Storage: Our Only Hope to Avoid Global Warming?

This talk presents an analysis of fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions based on resource estimates. While we may soon see a peak on production of so-called easy oil, unconventional resources and coal are more than sufficient to push atmospheric concentrations well beyond their level today.

To avoid dangerous climate change, we need to tackle fossil fuel emissions directly through the widespread implementation of carbon capture and storage. After a brief description of what this involves, proposed designs for CO2 injection to ensure that the CO2 can remain safely underground for hundreds to thousands of years will be presented, with a review of simulation and experimental studies that have investigated the use of capillary trapping as a rapid and effective long-term storage mechanism. The analysis suggests a carbon storage strategy where CO2 and brine are injected into an aquifer together followed by brine injection alone. Based on simulation studies, this can render 80-95% of the CO2 immobile in pore-scale droplets within the porous rock; over thousands to billions of years the CO2 may dissolve or precipitate as carbonate, but it will not migrate upwards and so is effectively sequestered. The CO2 is trapped during the decades-long lifetime of the injection phase, reducing the need for extensive monitoring for centuries. The method does not rely on an impermeable cap rock to contain the CO2; this is only a secondary containment for the small amount of remaining mobile gas. Furthermore, the favourable mobility ratio between injected and displaced fluids leads to a more uniform sweep of the aquifer leading to higher storage efficiency than injecting CO2 alone.

Listen to 'Mapping the Arctic' in our series of podcasts to hear Martin Blunt talk about his research into carbon capture and storage, and the difficult relationship that can sometimes exist between science and the media.


Martin Blunt, Imperial College London


Martin Blunt is head of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. He joined Imperial in June 1999 as a Professor of Petroleum Engineering. Previous to this he was Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering at Stanford University in California. Before joining Stanford in 1992, he was a research reservoir engineer with BP in Sunbury-on-Thames. He holds MA and PhD (1988) degrees in theoretical physics from Cambridge University.

Professor Blunt's research interests are in multiphase flow in porous media with applications to oil and gas recovery, contaminant transport and clean-up in polluted aquifers and geological carbon storage. He performs experimental, theoretical and numerical research into many aspects of flow and transport in porous systems, including pore-scale modelling of displacement processes, and large-scale simulation using streamline-based methods. He has written over 100 scientific papers and is on the editorial boards of three international journals.