Fracking of Shale May Impair Carbon Storage Projects, Study Says

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The fracturing of shale rock formations associated with the drilling process known as fracking might undermine future attempts to store carbon dioxide underground, according to a new study.

While many have called carbon storage a promising solution to reducing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gas emissions — by essentially pumping captured CO2 into deep, permeable geological formations — Princeton University researcher Michael Celia says that process would only work if there is a layer of impermeable caprock to prevent the CO2 from escaping.

But according to his study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, about 80 percent of the U.S. areas suited for carbon storage overlap with regions of potential shale-gas production.

The hydraulic fracturing of those shale-gas areas involves blasting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to shatter the shale formations and free the natural gas trapped within. While it is unclear how much of the potential storage volume would be lost, shale gas drilling could “significantly affect” the sequestration capacity for carbon storage operations, the study said.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

  • Eric Ryan

    What? I’ve never even heard that storing CO2 underground was an option! Just another thing that the Marcellus Shale industry is putting a wrench into. Check out shalestuff.com for information regarding the latest and greatest in the Marcellus Shale Industry.