North America Has Capacity to Store 500 Years of CO2 Emissions

by | May 4, 2012

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North America’s geological formations have the capacity to store 500 years of carbon dioxide emissions, according to an atlas produced by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The North American Carbon Storage Atlas was created through the North American Carbon Atlas Partnership, a joint cross-border mapping initiative by the US Energy Department, Natural Resources Canada and the Mexican Ministry of Energy.

A website and interactive map has been released in conjunction with the hard-copy atlas. The online viewer is accessible via the NASCA website and houses data from all three countries as well as analytical tools to address carbon capture and storage projects.

According to the atlas, low case estimate puts potential capacity at 136 billion metric tons for oil and gas fields; 65 billion metric tons for coal fields; and 1,738 billion metric tons for saline reservoirs, which collectively represent 500 years of storage.

By documenting both geological storage sites and the location of 2,250 large stationary CO2 sources (see map), the atlas could help determine the potential of CCS projects, the Energy Department said. Information within the atlas combined with technology innovation can help fossil fuel-powered facilities continue to operate while reducing carbon pollution, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

CCS technologies capture, purify and compress CO2, which is then injected into geological formations for permanent storage. The same technology also can be used for enhanced oil recovery to produce hard-to-access crude, while permanently storing the CO2 emissions.

The atlas’s online viewer is designed for a broad range of users. It contains Geographic Information System and database query tools for technical users, and also has simplified displays that uses readily available web tools, such as Google Earth and Google Maps, for the general public.

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