Bellona on Weyburn, Saskatchewan: Safe storage of CO2 crucial

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According to Canadian newspapers, the couple Jane and Cameron Kerr, claim that contamination from a CO2 capture and storage (CCS) project in Weyburn, Saskatchewan has driven them from their home.

The Weyburn project is operated by Cenovus Energy, which uses CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in oilfields. The Kerrs says that between 2004 and 2005 a cat, a goat and a rabbit died at their farm, which is located near an injection site, and they suspect it was caused by higher concentrations of CO2 in the area. As far as Bellona has been able to learn, there have been no incidents since 2005.

Independent research

In a statement yesterday, the Petroleum Technologcy Research Centre (PTRC)  said that baselines for CO2 in the soils and wells were taken in multiple locations starting in July, 2001, prior to any injection, and surveys have been repeated yearly until the fall of 2003 to monitor effects after the injection of CO2 began.

These tests have all indicated that soil gases sampled are in the normal range. According to PTRC, no CO2 originating from the injection unit at the Weyburn field has been observed in any of the studies undertaken by international scientific organizations such as British Geological Survey, BRGM (French Geological Survey), and INGV (Italian Geological Survey).

“We do, however, want to express our concern regarding the situation the Kerr couple is in, and we see a need for a thorough investigation. People should not have a reason to worry about possible seepage of CO2 close at storage sites,” says Erlend Fjøsna, Programme Director of the Bellona’s Environmental CCS Team (BEST).

The climate at stake

Bellona sees CO2 capture and storage (CCS) as a crucial part of the fight against climate change.  Global CO2 emissions must be cut by up to 85 percent by 2050 to avoid the most dramatic consequences of global warming, and enhanced energy efficiency and more renewable energy production alone is, unfortunately, not enough. Such solutions cannot be deployed fast enough to obtain sufficient emissions reductions, whereas CCS can give large immediate reductions once deployed.

“We support CCS because the climate is at stake, but totally safe storage of CO2 is crucial. Storage sites must be selected carefully, and there must always be a proper monitoring system,” says Fjøsna.

He explains that although CO2 is in soft drinks and in the breath, that humans exhale, it can be harmful in high concentrations:

“If CO2 seeps out of a ditch or a hollow in the ground on a windless day, there is a risk that small animals or birds could die. CO2 can come out of the ground naturally, though, and, for instance, in Iceland the geysers contain a lot of CO2.”