International participation in the Containment and Monitoring Institute’s research program has grown with the addition of RITE – Japan.
The environmental research organization has signed on as a subscriber and RITE Chief Researcher Xue Ziqiu says results from the program conducted at the field research station will be used to reassure the public that if CO2 escapes from a reservoir, technologies are in place to detect it before it gets to the surface.
“People in Japan are supportive of efforts to combat climate change. But they have similar concerns if injecting more CO2 it will induce earthquakes and if a leak happens and CO2 comes to the surface, that might cause any environmental impacts,” says Ziqiu, who was in Alberta recently to tour the field station. A key purpose of the site, and the reason for RITE’s involvement, is to discover which monitoring technologies can best detect the movement of CO2 underground.
There are large, deep test sites where monitoring technologies can be studied. For instance, at the Shell Quest site in central Alberta, one million tonnes of CO2 are injected annually more than two kilometres deep. But there are no test sites where the behavior of CO2 can be monitored in the shallow subsurface.
Integrated data platform
The field research station was created to simulate a leak from a deep storage site to the shallow subsurface. Each year 600 tonnes of CO2 will be injected into a saline aquifer 300 metres deep. Researchers are employing a wide variety of technologies to determine which approaches are most effective and cost efficient. Another key aim of the research program is to develop an integrated data platform by combining results from all monitoring technologies. The integrated platform will provide a more detailed, robust image of the subsurface than the picture offered by one technology.
Ziqiu and his associates at RITE will perform their own analysis and data collection using fiber optic cables installed at the site by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). These researchers have installed a range of equipment including fiber-optic sensors for seismic and thermal monitoring, electromagnetic imaging tools and downhole geochemical samplers. RITE, which partners with international organizations such as LBNL to develop novel subsurface monitoring technologies, is interested primarily in the fiber optic data.
Fiber optics a key interest
“We are interested in all the monitoring technologies, but of immediate interest is the fiber optics. We have experience performing well logging – cross-well seismic, neutron logging, induction logging at the Nagaoka pilot site in Japan,” says Ziqiu.
Japan’s dense population means space is at a premium and getting approval for onshore carbon storage projects is very difficult.
“The concern (of the public) is earthquakes. Offshore storage is much easier to communicate with the local people and the ongoing Tomakomai large scale demonstration project shows a good example. So our concern is to test RITE technology so we can show how to detect CO2 leakage. From this site (the field research station) we can learn from results and can show people, if there is CO2 leakage to the shallow depth, we can use this technology to detect this leakage,” says Ziqiu. The Tomakomai project, which was launched in 2016, is a fully integrated CCS project in which CO2 from a hydrogen production unit in an oil refinery is captured, purified and injected into an offshore reservoir.
Although he believes CCS is necessary for the large-scale reduction of emissions necessary to mitigate the impacts of climate change, Ziqiu is realistic about its future.
“I think for most Asian countries, CO2 utilization could be a first option because storage doesn’t make any money. But if you inject CO2 into an oil field you can increase your oil recovery and reduce a part of your costs,” he says adding, “But the final goal, the ultimate goal, is to store CO2 in the aquifer.”