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AIPG Position Statement - Domestic Energy: Carbon Dioxide

AIPG Position Statement - Domestic Energy: Carbon Dioxide
(October 2009)

LeRoy W. Smith, CPG-03385, Jeffrey W. Moore, CPG-08821, Dennis James, CPG-04970,
Gary Edmondo, CPG-11089, and Mark Yaskanin, CPG-08447

Man-made emissions of carbon dioxide result primarily from fuel use.  The Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) 2008 International Energy Outlook estimates annual world carbon dioxide emissions were 28.1 billion metric tons in 2005 and are expected to grow to 42.3 billion metric tons by 2030.  Although there is no universal consensus, and while the theories and data concerning the impact of carbon dioxide on the environment continue to be debated, policy makers are moving forward with discussions concerning cap-and-trade legislation as it pertains to the future emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

In 2008 the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) estimated that the annual carbon dioxide emissions from all stationary sources of carbon dioxide emissions (coal, natural gas, cement manufacture, refining / chemical, etc.) totaled 3.2 billion metric tons in the United States and Canada. 

Up to 12,900 billion metric tons of geologic carbon dioxide storage resource potential has been estimated to exist in the United States and Canada (2008 Carbon Sequestration Atlas published by the NETL).  This capacity for geologic storage, if utilized for stationary sources of carbon dioxide emissions, could stop substantial quantities of carbon dioxide from being put into the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of increasing global use of fossil fuels.  The location of major stationary sources of CO2 and potential reservoirs for the storage of CO2 are given in 2008 Carbon Sequestration Atlas.

The United States Department of Energy has currently targeted 2011 as the date for at least one large-scale demonstration of carbon dioxide storage (≥1 million tons carbon dioxide per year).  Outside North America, in Norway and Algeria for example, a large number of programs are in progress to develop geologic storage of carbon dioxide.  Started in 1996, the Norwegian Sleipner project annually injects about 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.  Begun in 2004, the Algerian In Salah project annually injects approximately 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.  It is critical to note the size and the associated cost of the present projects and that they will have to be replicated thousands of times at locations all over the globe to make a meaningful reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.

Although the geologic storage of carbon dioxide is well understood in general, an enormous amount of work remains to be done before substantial quantities of carbon dioxide can be stored in the United States and elsewhere.  One example of the lack of detailed site evaluation for geologic storage is given in the article on Michigan Basin referenced at the end of this article.

Geologic storage on a scale that would substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions will depend on a detailed characterization of the particular geologic reservoirs for thousands of carbon dioxide storage sites.  Protocols need to be developed for each carbon dioxide geologic storage site for

  • monitoring
  • remediation
  • verification
  • risk assessments.

A review of the development of the above protocols is given in a recent publication by the National Technology Laboratory (Monitoring, Verification, and Accounting of CO2 Stored in Deep Geologic Formations) and in a resent presentation by V.A. Kuuskraa on remediation. 

Legal and regulatory issues remain to be addressed by the local jurisdictions and the Federal governments as noted in the recent article by Moore.   In addition, public acceptance for storing huge volumes of carbon dioxide will have to be obtained.

In order to realize the potential of using this abundant resource of geologic storage for carbon dioxide, the following must be accomplished:

  • Focus of work on geologic storage must shift from general descriptions of geologic storage potential to characterizing the geology of specific sites where carbon dioxide sources exist.  A suggested methodology for this characterization is discussed in the recent publication by the United States Geological Survey, Development of a Probabilistic Assessment Geology of Carbon Dioxide Storage.
  • Regulatory certainty must be established for the geologic storage of carbon dioxide storage.
  • Long term liability for carbon dioxide storage while still providing adequate protection of human health and the environment must be considered. 


Burruss, R.C., Brennan, S.T., Freeman, P.A., Merrill, M.D., Ruppert, L.F., Becker, M.F. Herkelrath, W.N., Kharaka, Y.K., Neuzil, C.E., Swanson, S.M., Cook, T.A., Klett, T.R., Nelson, P.H. and Schenk, C.J., 2009, Development of a Probabilistic Assessment Methodology for Evaluation of Carbon Dioxide Storage:  U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1035, 81 p., http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1035/.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) United States Department of Energy, 2008, International Energy Outlook 2008, Report # DOE/EIA-0484(2008), release date June 2008, http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/emissions.html.

Moore, J., 2007, The Potential Law Of On-shore Geologic Sequestration of CO2 Captured From Coal-Fired Power Plants, Energy Law Journal, Vol. 28, p. 443.

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), 2008, 2008 Carbon Sequestration Atlas II of the United States and Canada ― Version 2,

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), 2009, Monitoring, Verification, and Accounting of CO2 Stored in Deep Geologic Formations, DOE/NETL-311/081508, http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/carbon_seq/refshelf/MVA_Document.pdf.

Kuuskraa, V.A., 2007, Overview of Mitigation and Remediation Options for Geologic Storage of CO2, AB1925 Staff Workshop, California Institute for Energy and Environment, University of California, www.westcarb.org/pdfs_ab1925/Kuuskraa%20_mitigation.pdf.

Smith, L.W., 2008, Are We Ready to Store Large Quantities of Carbon Dioxide in the Michigan Basin?, The Professional Geologist, Vol. 45, Number 6, p. 36, Nov/Dec 2008.

The American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) was founded in 1963 to certify the credentials
of practicing geologists and to advocate on behalf of the profession.

AIPG represents the professional interests of all practicing geoscientists in every discipline.
It's advocacy & efforts are focused on the promotion of the role of geology and geologists in society.