Natural CO2 seeps suggest carbon storage is low risk

John Timmer

Natural CO<sub>2</sub> seeps suggest carbon storage is low risk

A volcanic carbon seep in Iceland.

Progress toward limiting carbon emissions continues to be slow, which has helped maintain interest in carbon capture and storage (CCS). This approach involves separating out carbon dioxide from other gasses, often directly from the exhaust stream of a fossil fuel power plant. This gas can then be pumped under ground for storage on time scales that can exceed thousands of years. In some cases, chemical reactions make the sequestration essentially permanent, but in others, geological features will be counted on to trap the CO2.

The potential for leaks from this storage has raised safety concerns, with some pointing to the Lake Nyos disaster in which about 1,700 people were killed by an eruption of CO2 from a volcanic source. How large a risk could carbon capture and storage pose? To get a greater feel for the typical situation, a group of Scottish researchers looked at Italy, where naturally occurring carbon dioxide seeps are common.

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