So before I launch into ‘blogging’ my geochemical tour Down Under, I really do need to say a very big thank you to Robin Cathcart and everyone in the UKCCSRC team for providing financial support through the ECR International Exchange Fund for this trip. I’d also like to thank Charles Jenkins and Richard Aldous at CO2CRC for their time and help in arranging my visits to CO2CRC colleagues in Melbourne and Adelaide. Special recognition must also go to; Andrew Feitz, Henry Berko and Chris Boreham at Geoscience Australia for not only a great many interesting discussions but also for providing access to the Ginninderra Site; similarly, a big bow of the head to Ralf Haese and Max Watson at CO2CRC/University of Melbourne, Ulrike Schacht, University of Adelaide and Linda Stalker and Allison Hortle at CSIRO for our lively exchanges on CO2-injection experiments, arranging my talks and for just being great hosts altogether! It was a remarkably successful trip and I’m pretty confident that some excellent and exciting new research collaborations will come directly out of the events blogged below.
Monday 26th – Friday 30th
My Australian expedition kicked off with a week in the capital, Canberra, attending the IEAGHG Combined Monitoring and Environmental Research Network Meeting (International Energy Agency Green House Gas R&D Programme). Gathering 80 delegates from 12 countries, this meeting was dedicated to the realistic monitoring of CO2 migration from the reservoir to the surface.
This meeting was conceived as an opportunity for academics working in geological CO2 storage from the ‘Monitoring’, ‘Regulation and Policy’ and ‘Environmental Impacts’ research communities to come together to present their cross-disciplinary work. The workshop included people from a diverse range of scientific backgrounds and individuals working in policy and regulation, both within Australia and internationally. This included people working on fundamental research, modelling and technologies related to surface monitoring, subsurface migration of CO2 and the environmental impacts of near surface CO2 leakage, in a range of international projects such as Sleipner, Otway, Cranfield, QICS, Green River and many others.
The focus of this meeting was to help identify the key lessons learned from existing CO2 injection experiments, natural analogue and modelling studies into CO2 migration through the overburden and surface CO2 escape. The objective of the meeting was to identify key future research needs, and to help shape the most important research questions, pertinent to CO2 migration and surface monitoring. There were some truly insightful, lively and thought provoking discussions on the nature, magnitudes and impacts of CO2 leakage, on the current state of international regulation and legislation and the bright outlook for the future of CO2 storage projects, globally. In important outcome of these discussions was that more work is needed on overburden topics, such as migration mechanisms, faults and leaky natural analogues.
As I was attending the meeting as a representative of the UK’s NERC funded CRIUS research consortium, I presented our recent work on a scientific drilling project to sample a natural leaky CO2 reservoir near the town of Green River, Utah. The drilling project was funded by Shell and was jointly organised by the University of Cambridge and Utah State University, with the drilling being carried out by the scientific drilling organisation DOSECC. The main objectives of this drilling project were to collect core and fluid samples from a natural CO2 reservoir-caprock system to examine the long-term impacts of CO2 on the caprock integrity. This work is currently funded by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change CO2 Storage Research & Development Program and involves on-going projects at the University of Cambridge, the British Geological Survey, University of Lancaster, Aachen University, University of Delft, University of Utrecht and Shell.
The Green River drill-site is located next to a stacked sequence of shallow CO2 reservoirs that are actively fed by CO2 and CO2-charged brines, from a leaky supercritical reservoir of CO2 deep (>2km) within the basin. This project provides exciting new data on processes related to CO2 migration through the overburden, as the drilling and downhole fluid sampling, allowed us to sample the dynamic fluid-fluid mixing processes that happen in CO2 leaky faults, whilst it was actually happening. The preliminary results of this project will shortly be published in the journals Scientific Drilling and Chemical Geology.
The four-day meeting was followed by a cultural day visiting some of the sites around Canberra, including the Australian parliament and some of the surrounding countryside. We were lucky enough to spy some not –so-hard to see kangaroos and some far more elusive platypuses (platypie?)!
Monday 2nd September to Tuesday 3rd September
I spent the first two days of this week visiting Andrew Feitz, Henry Berko and Chris Boreham at Geoscience Australia. The team at GA are currently developing a controlled CO2 release experimental site where surface monitoring equipment can be tested and where processes related to CO2 migration in soils can be investigated. They were kind enough to show me around the site and we discussed and planned future involvement of UKCCS scientists from Lancaster University and the CRIUS consortium in the CO2 release experiments. Henry and I spent the day setting up a sampling protocol which will enable us to sample soil gases from the site for future work on using noble gas isotopes to examine CO2 transport processes within the soil structure.
Wednesday 4th September to Thursday 5th September
On Tuesday evening I embarked for Melbourne to meet with Ralf Haese and the team at the ‘Peter Cook Centre for CCS Research’. I presented work from the Green River drilling project to an enthusiastic audience at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne. Some really interesting and in-depth exchanges with Ralf Haese and Max Watson about their work on the Otway injection experiment led on to discussing at length about trying to get UK scientists involved in the next round of their injection experiment. We identified several areas where scientists from the BGS, CRIUS consortium and University of Lancaster might be able to contribute noble gas and fluid isotope techniques to get even more exciting results from their next CO2-injection experiment. It was a thoroughly enlightening two days with some promising opportunities for the future!
Friday 6th September
On the Thursday evening, my journey continued via a flight (westwards) to Adelaide to meet with Ulrike Schacht at the University of Adelaide, Australian School of Petroleum Geoscience. Ulrike is working with colleagues from Geoscience Australia on incorporating a noble gas tracer into the Ginninderra shallow release experiment. We discussed applying noble gas isotope analyses at the University of Lancaster to future CO2 release experiments from the site. We also planned sampling methods and strategy, as well as examining some of the results from their past injection experiments. I wrapped up my trip with a presentation on the Green River drilling project to a keen audience of geoscientists and engineers at the school of Petroleum, before clocking up some more air miles with a flight to sunny Sydney where a London Heathrow bound 747 had a seat with my name on it.