How good are we at quantifying CO2 leakage? Watch this space...

I have recently returned to Glasgow following 3 fruitful months working in Australia, supported by the UKCCSRC International Research Collaboration (IRC) Fund. My visit was hosted by Dr Linda Stalker, Science Director of Australia’s National Geosequestration Laboratory (NGL) in Perth, and Dr Andrew Feitz, Section leader for CO2CRC and International CCS at Geoscience Australia. The research visit focused on facilitating knowledge exchange on methods of quantifying CO2 leakage, and primarily involved training me up on a range of lab and field techniques in a glorious environment and amongst excellent company. As you will find out, my experiences greatly compliment my research on CO2 leakage and environmental decision-making.

I spent 8 weeks working at NGL, where I worked closely with Matt Myers and Linda Stalker, embedded amongst the CSIRO Energy Team at the Australian Resources Research Centre. It was a pleasure to return to NGL, where I had previously spent several sunny months, thanks the UKCCSRC ECR Fund. This time, Matt and I set about establishing some benchtop experiments that we could use to test how useful tracers are for quantifying CO2 leakage and fate, as well as the best ways of sampling these fluids. The experiments mimicked leakage into a range of environments, including aqueous settings (lakes/rivers or offshore). I have had limited exposure to lab research in my career to date, and so working with Matt and Linda gave me great insight into the trials and tribulations, rage and rewards, of designing and setting up experimental procedures. I also got chance to familiarise myself with the Picarro technology (which can measure <ppm changes in CO2 and CH4 concentrations) and get onto on first name terms with Swagelok store staff. Following the well-known scientific principles of Murphy’s law, we experienced a series of issues and set-backs with the experiments, which thankfully we managed to overcome in my final week in Australia. So – fingers crossed – the work is set to continue in following months. No doubt I will blog with glee once we get some results, so, watch this space…

In March, I spent three weeks on the other side of Australia, working alongside Andrew Feitz and his team in Canberra*. I was excited to meet the team who had learnt so much at the landmark Ginninderra CO2 release project, and who have great ideas about future work on this. Since the Ginninderra team had observed seasonal variations in the extent and nature of CO2 release (Schroder et al.**), we thought it would be interesting to see whether fluxes at natural CO2 degassing sites showed seasonal changes. We headed to the mineral springs around Daylesford (Victoria), where CO2 bubbling is observed at several springs and streams. I had accompanied Edinburgh PhD student Ruta Karolyte on fieldwork in the Daylesford region in December 2015, and some of Andrew’s team at Geoscience Australia had measured CO2 flux at several of the springs in June 2016. CO2 bubble-hunting was a jolly endeavour, and taking flux measurements could be acrobatic, extraordinarily peaceful, and ridden with déjà vu. It was overall kinda tricky, too. As was observed at QICS, where CO2 emerges as bubble streams, it can be difficult to measure CO2 flux because of issues of sampling and variations in bubble stream characteristics. Further, the data processing approach can lead to large uncertainties. As such, we also explored the best approach to quantifying CO2 leakage at seeps of this nature.  I learnt how to work a couple of different types of flux systems, and also how to faff around and take measurements with the super sensitive GPS measuring devices (RTK GPS system) which we used to map the bubble locations. The field data is really interesting, and we are looking forward to distilling some of the outcomes, so again, watch this space…!

So, all in all, the visit was a fantastic and successful opportunity, and a wholesomely rewarding experience (as I have previously enthused on this forum, a change is as good as a holiday). It was great to put faces to some familiar names. Collaborative research links have certainly been strengthened between the University of Strathclyde (/UKCCSRC) NGL and GA, with future work in the pipeline. I also welcomed opportunities to join, or give, seminars, and so enjoyed sharing some of my research findings with audiences at Geoscience Australia (about what we have learnt from CO2 release experiments across the globe), and the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance

Huge thanks go to everyone for making me feel so welcome during my visit, including Linda, Matt, Andrew and colleagues, and my family in Australia. I am also greatly indebted to the UKCCSRC and the University of Strathclyde (namely Prof Zoe Shipton) for supporting me in opportunities such as this, for which I am incredibly grateful.

*I would like to add that - despite it’s rather dull reputation - Canberra was, well, lovely! It was friendly, culturally-loaded, leafy, topographically variable, and rich in wildlife. Granted, the city spirit is somewhat… odd…but any place with platypuses in the vicinity can surely never be dull?!

** Schroder, I., Wilson, P., Feitz A., Ennis-King J. (2017) Energy Procedia Evaluating the performance of soil flux surveys and inversion methods for quantification of CO2 leakage (from 13th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies, GHGT-13, 14-18 November 2016, Lausanne, Switzerland)

 

Huge thanks to the University of Strathclyde, National Geosequestration Labs and Geoscience Australia for supporting my visit, and to UKCCSRC for opportunities like these.

Author(s): 
J. Roberts
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