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Foresight evident in development of field research station says visiting expert

Catherine Peters at FRS.jpg_large

Dr. Catherine Peters, Princeton University, and Don Lawton, Containment and Monitoring Institute, at field research station.

A Princeton researcher visiting the Containment and Monitoring Institute’s field research station (FRS) says work at the station will play an important role in the development of large-scale commercial carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites.

Dr. Catherine Peters, a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University, was in southern Alberta recently where she toured the field research station and met with researchers at the University of Calgary. Work at the field site, developing and testing monitoring technologies, is aimed at providing government and industry with the information they need to assure stakeholders that storage can be conducted safely and securely.

“This is a very important experiment . . . unlike any in the world. I’m impressed with the foresight about the need for observation and monitoring,” she said.

Research at FRS a possibility

Peters is an environmental geochemist who examines the impact of acidic fluids on pathways in carbonate rock. Although much of her experimental and modeling work take place at small scale in the lab, she is considering how she could apply her work at the FRS. Peters examines how acidic fluids, such as saline water in a storage reservoir that has become acidic through contact with the CO2 plume, dissolves carbonate rock, increasing the size of fractures within the rock. It can, in some instances, significantly increase permeability.

There are a number of research options open to Peters. She could, if she can obtain funding and also a core sample of the sandstone cap rock at the research site, work in the lab to examine the reaction pattern of the rock to CO2-saturated brines. A second option is to model the behavior of the plume as it reacts to the temperature of the surrounding rock. Peters explains that heat is transferred from surrounding rock to the gas, causing it to expand as it warms. The rate of expansion is important to understand when predicting the behavior of the plume.

Ultimately, all the of the research conducted by Peters and other researchers at the research station is leading to one goal – an accurate way to predict “when it’s going to be where.”