Capture and geologic storage of carbon dioxide is a critical energy technology for the 21st Century and is likely to be required to meet global goals for the reduction of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. However, real and perceived risks of underground CO2storage still provide barriers to public acceptance. The risks reflect uncertainties in fundamental knowledge of subsurface geological processes. Research done in this EFRC is directed at the scientific questions that result in uncertainties about how carbon dioxide will be trapped and held in the subsurface and in estimating the storage capacity of underground reservoir formations. The research, although entirely focused on subsurface carbon storage, is also more broadly applicable to subsurface science, since it addresses some scientific issues that also arise in other energy contexts, including geothermal energy, nuclear waste isolation, and enhanced oil and gas recovery.
To better estimate the performance of subsurface carbon storage systems requires new fundamental knowledge of the chemistry and physics of porous rock materials saturated with a mixture of brine and supercritical carbon dioxide. Our research focuses specifically on chemical reactions between minerals and fluids and how they impact the various trapping processes that must operate to keep carbon dioxide safely stored for a thousand years or more. These chemical processes, which take place at the interface between solids and fluids, control the way fluids flow through rocks, and to what degree the storage process modifies the properties of the minerals and the rock formations.
The research program, which combines experiments with advanced scientific computing, is also aimed at understanding how microscopic and sub-microsopic processes affect the larger scale behavior of stressed fluid-filled rocks. The experimental program will determine the rates and mechanisms of mineral dissolution and precipitation, the rates of fluid phase chemical transport, the interaction of organic material with mineral surface and fluid interfaces, and gravitational and capillary effects on fluid distributions within porous rocks. The research is characterized by novel experiments carried out at elevated temperature and pressure using specialized analytical facilities at the participating institutions, and characterized with multiple in situ techniques using national supercomputing, synchrotron, nanoscience, and neutron user facilities.
The research of the NCGC is divided into three Thrust Areas that address
- the sealing effectiveness of fractured shales,
- reservoir processes that control secondary trapping (capillary, dissolution and mineral trapping) and
- developing the computational tools and insight necessary to model mesoscale couplings and material properties and dynamics.
Systems of study will include well-characterized natural rock and mineral samples, and synthetic materials fabricated by established methods and methods to be developed. A key aspect of our approach is to bring multiple characterization methods, and diverse complementary expertise, to bear on the same experiments, and to integrate modeling and simulation with experiments. The Center will leverage the characterization and computational facilities at LBNL (Advanced Light Source, Molecular Foundry, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center), ORNL (Spallation Neutron Source, High Flux Isotope Reactor, Center for Nanomaterials Science) and other synchrotron facilities (Advanced Photon Source at Argonne Laboratory, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, and the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven Lab).