Fracked shale could trap lots of carbon dioxide

Scientists estimate that about 10 to 18 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide could be stored in the Marcellus formation alone after the extraction of methane gas. The US has several other large shale formations that could provide additional storage.

They apply their model to the Marcellus Shale geological formation in Pennsylvania and find that the fractured rock has the potential to store roughly 50 percent of the US carbon dioxide emissions produced from stationary sources between 2018 and 2030.

Andres Clarens, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and graduate student Zhiyuan Tao report their findings in Environmental Science and Technology.

They base their model on historical and projected methane production, along with published data and models for estimating the carbon dioxide capacity of the formations.

Clarens says that production records are available for how much methane gas producers have already extracted from the Marcellus Shale, as well as estimates of how much more they expect to extract. That provides a basis for determining how much space will be left in the formation when the methane is gone, he says. Clarens says gas would be adsorbed into the pores of the shale and held securely.

“This would be a way of eating our cake and having it too,” Clarens says. “We can drill the shale, pump out the gas, and pump in the carbon dioxide. I think this will get policymakers’ attention.”

He says his work deals with the chemical feasibility of the idea, and that additional studies must be performed to examine the economical, political, and logistical implications.

“My field is carbon management—high-pressure carbon dioxide chemistry,” he says. “Right now, we are emitting huge levels of carbon dioxide, and we need new ideas on ways to store the waste.”

Clarens, who says he has no connection with the oil and gas industry, knows some in the environmental movement oppose hydraulic fracturing because of possible risks to ground and surface waters. However, he thinks this type of extraction is inevitable in many places and it is important to preemptively develop new strategies for handling the environmental implications, especially those related to carbon dioxide.

“There are a lot of people who say we need to get away from carbon-based fuels, and that may be possible in a few decades, but right now, fossil fuels power everything,” he says. “Finding ways to harvest these non-conventional fossil fuel sources without contributing to climate changes is a difficult but important challenge.”

Source: University of Virginia

chat7 Comments


  1. Naomi

    I’m sorry, but fracking is extremely toxic, and makes CO2 look like a walk in the park by comparison. Stating that there’s a fair exchange by putting the carbon into the ground after fracking is scientifically amoral.

  2. chaz

    That comment is pretty simplistic. We use toxic materials all the time, including medical treatments for cancer.

  3. steve

    So, we extract tonnes of fossil fuel, adding to our greenhouse emissions, (to say nothing of the increased earthquakes, water destruction, and land spoliation) and we get a big deep hole we can stuff carbon in…maybe..if we can figure out how..if we’re lucky…’s easier than solar/wind/geothermal power! After all, it’s like the coal/oil/natgas companies have been telling us for decades…solar/wind/etc might “someday” work..but you know..right now..they gots bills to pay so suck it up.

  4. Peter

    This is the clean coal idea. What a joke. It’s never been tried -thank God and nobody really knows what the dangers are with high pressure co2 storage. Face it. Fracking is an environmental disaster which means it’s here to stay.

  5. Tex

    drill baby dreeeeeee-ullllllllllll

  6. Tex

    additionally, Naomi has no idea what she is talking about, as study after study has proven fracking to safe. Umm, Naomi, did you know that the drilling process is involves a completely closed system involving piping and cement casing among other environment protecting factors? i recommend you study petroleum engineering and the truth before you go off spewing your low-information-voter libtard silliness. I know you won’t, because you are a libtard. But i felt it necessary to troll you anyway. I’m sure I’ll be trolled hardcore by all the silly libtards lurking on the comment boards of this site in return, and that is ok. But anyways, this site has some really great stuff on it. I’m glad I discovered it…both for education and for additional entertainment in trolling on clueless libtards who think fracking is environmentally unsafe even though it has been proven over and over and over again that it is safe. Texas. ‘Murica.

  7. Jess

    Tex, glad to know that you know you’re a troll. Ad hominem attacks merely demonstrate that you have nothing substantial to back up your arguments.

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