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How burying CO2 in sea can slow warming

Advances are taking place in clean energy, transport, and efficiency that may have rightfully been considered miraculous a decade ago. But here is the catch. As fast as everything is proceeding, it’s still not fast enough. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported in 2017 that a critical technology, capturing carbon dioxide emissions from generators and either burying or otherwise disposing of them isn’t expanding fast enough. The IEA reported that current “capture and storage” (CCS) facilities are capable of handling just 7.5 percent of the emissions that the world will need eliminated every year by 2025. That’s necessary if nations are to meet the goal of keeping any increase in global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

In China, researchers have been looking for ways to accelerate CCS. They decided to look out to sea.

On land, CCS isn’t just promising in principle it’s been show tom work. There will be more than 20 large scale capture facilities available by the end of the year, according to the Global CCS Institute. But there’s still concern about making sure the CO2, once buried, stays buried. The same can be said for the idea China has about burying CO2 at sea. For firms and countries to exploit the vastness of the ocean floor, they also need some kind of confidence that it’ll stay there.

But studying the long term interactions of major physical forces in unconsolidated marine sediment such as loose silt, clay and other permeable stuff below the sea floor, researchers Yihua Teng and Dongxiao Zhang report that extreme conditions at the bottom of the ocean essentially hold CO2 in place, which makes this option a safe storage.

Under a great pressure and low temperature, CO2 and water trapped in the sediment below the sea floor crystallize into a stable ice called hydrate. The new paper on CCS demonstrates through simulation that the hydrates become an impermeable cap that keeps the CO2 below it from migrating back up to the sea floor.

The study should provide some confidence that ocean CO2 storage remains viable tool in the push to reduce emissions of the most dangerous heat-trapping gas, even as commercialization. Of the process remains way off. The big assumption is that there’s no telling what the Earth living geology will do over the centuries. Fractures in the subsea sediment, either pre-existing or created for CO2 to escape through significant uncertainty remains.


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