A storage adventure in Texas and Berkeley!

Written by Dr Katherine Daniels, Research Associate in Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

I’m Katherine Daniels, a postdoctoral researcher in geological carbon storage at the University of Cambridge. This December I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in the USA, as the result of an Early Career Researcher’s International Exchange Fund grant from the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre (UKCCSRC). For this opportunity, I would like to thank Robin Cathcart and the UKCCSRC who provided the financial support, Dr Marc Hesse and his research group at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas for lots of stimulating discussion and Dr Susan Hovorka and her team at the Gulf Coast Carbon Centre (GCCC) for their interest in my work. I hope that this trip has sparked the beginning of a long and successful collaboration between the Universities of Cambridge and Texas!

During my time in America, I visited the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, the GCCC, the Mineral Society of America’s Geochemistry of Geologic CO2 Sequestration short course at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and attended the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco. I had an extremely busy time as you will see if you read on!

The first stop on my America trip was at the Jackson School of Geosciences to meet Dr Marc Hesse and his research group. The Jackson School is based just to the north of the centre of Austin in a lovely leafy campus, 10 minutes’ walk from the state capitol building, the landmark in Austin. I spent two days with him and had tours of the department’s laboratories as well as excellent discussions with him and his colleagues. The Geological Porous Media Group at the Jackson School is doing lots of interesting and related work to that going on in Cambridge with strong links to geological carbon storage (e.g. Liang, Y., DiCarlo, D. A., and Hesse, M. A., 2013. Experimental Study of Convective Dissolution of Carbon Dioxide in Heterogeneous Media, AGU Fall Meeting Abstract) so it was great to talk to them about their work. It was also great to be able to introduce his research group to some other researchers from the Universities of Cambridge (Prof Mike Bickle and Dr Hazel Chapman) and Lancaster (Dr Niko Kampman) who joined us for discussions on the second day. During the second day, Marc arranged for each of his research groups to give a short presentation on their work and I was able to present some of my latest work on modelling the propagation and dissolution of CO2 into reservoir brines. We had a really productive two days and I was able to continue my discussions with many of them at the AGU fall meeting later on in my trip.

My next stop was at the GCCC, a part of the University of Texas based on a different campus north of Austin. The journey involved a number of large multi-laned roads and some terrible traffic. Happily Mike was driving and I wasn’t! At the GCCC, I met Dr Susan Hovorka and her colleagues Dr Katherine Romanak and Dr Jiemin Lu. We were given a tour of the facilities which included some laboratories and the largest core storage facility I think I’ve seen. I gave a presentation on my current research which sparked plenty of discussion and we listened to Susan tell us about the current research and projects ongoing at the GCCC. We hope that there will be an opportunity to conduct a field experiment with them in the near future. We left the GCCC in time to almost miss the traffic and catch an evening flight to San Francisco for the next stage of my journey.

On the 7th and 8th December, I attended the Geochemistry of Geologic CO2 Sequestration short course hosted by the Mineral Society of America and the Geochemical Society, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley. This was a brilliant course, covering many different aspects of geological carbon storage that I had very little knowledge about. I learnt about carbonate thermodynamics, pore scale processes and carbonate mineralisation amongst many other things. This short course was predominantly attended by North American researchers and thus gave me a lot of insight into the CCS research occurring in the USA and Canada, and exposed me to the thoughts and ideas of a different set of researchers. Additionally, the short course was set in a building with the most fabulous view over the San Francisco bay so lunchtimes were very picturesque!

Rolling down the hill from Berkeley to downtown San Francisco, famed for its cable cars and clam chowder, the last stop of my trip was the AGU Fall Meeting. The meeting is attended by over 22,000 people – making it a great place to network – something I was happy to do.

There were a number of specific CCS sessions at the meeting and this year, carbon dioxide sequestration was designated as one of six SWIRL themes, identified to promote interdisciplinary collaboration. I was fortunate to be able to give a poster presentation in one of these sessions and received some really valuable feedback from the people that I met. All in all, it was a fantastic trip.