Scientists plan to store carbon in the depths of the ocean
One of humanity’s most critical problems is climate change. Scientists are researching new technologies that could help the world achieve carbon neutrality to avoid its potentially disastrous impacts.
Carbon capture and storage
(Photo: Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)
Capture and store Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the form of hydrates beneath ocean floor sediments, locked in place by natural pressure caused by the weight of salt water above, is a potential solution that is gaining ground. However, how stable would this stored CO2 be over the long storage periods needed to keep the carbon in place and out of the atmosphere.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering proved the first-ever experimental evidence for the sustainability of CO2 hydrates in marine sediments, paving the way for this carbon storage technique to become a reality.
Professor Praveen Linga, lead researcher of the study, said: “This is the first of its experimental type data which we hope will inspire further action on this technological development.” The team’s findings were originally published in the scientific journal Chemical Engineering Journal as part of research funded by the Singapore Energy Centre.
The NUS team demonstrated that CO2 hydrates could be stable in ocean sediments for up to 30 days using a specially constructed laboratory reactor. According to the researchers, the same procedure can now be used to validate the stability of CO2 hydrates for considerably longer periods of time.
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CO2 can be trapped among the low temperature, high pressure water molecules caused by the ocean, generating an ice-like material. These CO2 hydrates occur at temperatures slightly above the freezing point of water and can store up to 184 cubic meters of CO2 in a single cubic meter.
The presence of large volumes of methane hydrates in comparable locations across the planet, along with their safe existence, provides a natural analog to support the idea that CO2 hydrates deposited in deep ocean sediments will remain stable and safe.
According to the researchers, this method could be turned into a commercial-scale process, allowing countries like Singapore to efficiently store more than two million tonnes of CO2 per year in the form of hydrates to meet emission reduction targets. .
Professor Linga and his team used specially designed equipment to replicate conditions on the deep ocean floor, where temperatures range from 2°C to 6°C and pressures are 100 times higher than at sea level. It was difficult to build a large-scale reactor capable of withstanding such conditions, which is one of the reasons why preliminary studies aimed at verifying the stability of CO2 hydrates were not possible. The NUS team overcame this hurdle by using an in-house created pressure vessel covered with a bed of silica sand that mimicked ocean sediments.
The team was able to generate solid hydrates above and within the silica sand layer, then run the tank under pressure to simulate ocean conditions to test the stability of CO2 solid hydrates in the sediments. Hydrates have been studied for 14 to 30 days under conditions of high pressure and stability.
In addition to how carbon is now stored in depleted oil and gas reserves and saline aquifers, this hydrate technique would allow governments to trap huge amounts of carbon emissions in deep geological formations. . The technology could be a crucial tool to reduce CO2 emissions for countries like Singapore, which has set itself the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
The team’s next step will be to increase the volume and duration of the experiment.
The team’s recent announcement of funding from the Government of Singapore under the Low Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative creating state-of-the-art low-carbon energy technology solutions would greatly help the development of this storage technology. The team wants to build and evaluate models capable of predicting the stability of CO2 hydrates thousands of years into the future with future tests planned.
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