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The Concept of geologic Carbon Sequestration
---- An illustration showing the process of geologic carbon sequestration. ----On May 9, 2013, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere officially passed the 400 parts per million mark, an atm... ospheric concentration of carbon dioxide not seen in more than 800,000 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2011 alone, the United States emitted 5.5 metric gigatons of CO2 from energy production, and the world released a total of 31.6 metric gigatons, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.In any realistic discussion of ways of solving the looming problems of climate change due to the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, carbon sequestration must play a role. Carbon sequestration is a method of securing carbon dioxide (CO2) to prevent its release to the atmosphere and contribution to global warming as a greenhouse gas. Geologic carbon sequestration is the deliberate storage of CO2 in porous and permeable rocks and involves injecting high pressure CO2 into a subsurface rock unit and displacing the fluid that initially occupied the pore space. The USGS has been working for the past several years to help inform that discussion with the best available science on carbon storage potential in the United States.On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, USGS added a significant piece to the puzzle with the release of the first-ever comprehensive assessment of geologic carbon storage potential for the entire United States, with a mean estimate of 3,000 metric gigatons of potential storage. Along with the regional assessments of biologic carbon sequestration that are ongoing, this national geologic carbon sequestration assessment gives land and resource managers a powerful new tool to help determine the appropriate actions to take on mitigating climate change.What is Carbon Sequestration?The term “carbon sequestration” is used to describe both natural and deliberate processes by which CO2 is either removed from the atmosphere or diverted from emission sources and stored in the ocean, terrestrial environments (vegetation, soils, and sediment), and geologic formations.Human-engineered geologic carbon sequestration most often takes the form of pressurizing carbon dioxide into a liquid, then injecting it into the pores of rock formations. The CO2 is injected into only those rock layers with an appropriate seal, so as to assure long-term storage.Currently, the primary ways that the CO2 is captured for injection are near production wells to purify methane for delivery to consumers and by installing systems in fossil fuel-burning power plants to collect the CO2 as it is created and before it escapes into the atmosphere.
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