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"Land fizzing like soda pop: farmer says CO2 injected underground is leaking"
One of the "solutions" that the economists and technocrats of the IPCC, the International Panel for Climate Change, propose, is so-called "Carbon Capture and Storage", CCS.

The following article describes some of the results, as predicted by the critics, the CO2 gases don't stay underground for a long time.

Land fizzing like soda pop: farmer says CO2 injected underground is leaking

By: Bob Weber and Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press
Posted: 01/11/2011 10:22 AM | Comments: 9

A Saskatchewan farm couple whose land lies over the world's largest carbon capture and storage project says greenhouse gases seeping from the soil are killing animals and sending groundwater foaming to the surface like shaken soda pop.

The gases were supposed to have been injected permanently underground.

Cameron and Jane Kerr own nine quarter-sections of land above the Weyburn oilfield in eastern Saskatchewan. They released a consultant's report Tuesday that links high concentrations of carbon dioxide in their soil to 6,000 tonnes of the gas injected underground every day by energy giant Cenovus (TSX:CVE) in an attempt to enhance oil recovery and fight climate change.

"We knew, obviously, there was something wrong," said Jane Kerr.

A Cenovus spokeswoman said the company doubts those findings. She pointed out they contradict years of research from other scientists.

"It's not what we believe," said Rhona Delfrari.

Since 2000, Cenovus has injected about 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide underground to force more oil from an aging field and safely store greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to climate change.

But in 2005, the Kerrs began noticing algae blooms, clots of foam and multicoloured scum in two ponds at the bottom of a gravel quarry on their land. Sometimes, the ponds bubbled. Small animals cats, rabbits and goats were regularly found dead a few metres away.

Then there were the explosions.

"At night we could hear this sort of bang like a cannon going off," said Jane Kerr, 58. "We'd go out and check the gravel pit and, in the walls, it (had) blown a hole in the side and there would be all this foaming coming out of this hole."

"Just like you shook up a bottle of Coke and had your finger over it and let it spray," added her husband.

The water, said Jane Kerr, came out of the ground carbonated.

"It would fizz and foam."

Alarmed, the couple left their farm and moved to Regina.

"It was getting too dangerous to live there," Cameron Kerr said.

He said provincial inspectors did a one-time check of air quality. Eventually, the Kerrs paid a consultant for a study.

Paul Lafleur of Petro-Find Geochem found carbon dioxide concentrations in the soil last summer that averaged about 23,000 parts per million several times those typically found in field soils. Concentrations peaked at 110,607 parts per million.

Lafleur also used the mix of carbon isotopes he found in the gas to trace its source.

"The ... source of the high concentrations of CO2 in the soils of the Kerr property is clearly the anthropogenic CO2 injected into the Weyburn reservoir," he wrote.

"The survey also demonstrates that the overlying thick cap rock of anhydrite over the Weyburn reservoir is not an impermeable barrier to the upward movement of light hydrocarbons and CO2 as is generally thought."

Delfrari said Cenovus has hired three independent consultants to evaluate Lafleur's work.

She pointed to a 2004 report on the project by Saskatchewan's Petroleum Training and Research Centre, an agency bringing together government, academics and industry. That report found that after four years of injection, there was no indication carbon dioxide was making its way up through 1,400 metres of rock.

"There is no evidence so far for escape of injected CO2 from depth," the report said. It also found the area "highly suitable" for long-term carbon dioxide storage.

Centre director Malcolm Wilson said Lafleur's report wasn't enough on its own to conclude carbon dioxide is leaking.

"I will never say that it couldn't happen, but at the moment I think it's very premature to make that linkage," he said. "There are a lot of other potential sources of the CO2."

He added, however, that Lafleur has raised some significant questions.

"We do have to take into account some of the carbon isotope analysis."

Delfrari said the nearest injection well is about two kilometres from the Kerr property and no other farmers in the area have complained.

"We're confident that none of (the carbon dioxide) is making its way back to the Kerr property."

She said the Kerrs have suggested that Cenovus buy them out.

Lafleur said there's no way the heavy concentrations of the gas he found could have been naturally generated.

"Biogeneic gas is simply not the source of this tremendous amount of CO2, both from a volume point of view and from the isotope point of view.

"All reservoirs leak. Every one of them."

Lafleur emphasized that most of the carbon dioxide stays underground. But so much is injected that even small leaks can have health impacts.

He said environmental monitoring of the Weyburn project virtually ceased in 2005.

Carbon dioxide is not poisonous, but it does have health effects and can cause asphyxiation in heavy concentrations.

Saskatchewan Energy and Resource Minister Bill Boyd said his government is prepared to take another look at the situation, but said he wouldn't order the project to stop or slow down.

"We're prepared to take a very serious look at this situation," he said. "In the meantime, we feel that things are handled appropriately."

Chris Severson-Baker from the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, suggested there is a greater chance of leakage from projects that combine oil recovery with carbon storage.

"We're nervous and not supportive of enhanced oil recovery," he said. "If you drill lots of wells into an oil formation, you're going to have leaks."

Such sites aren't chosen because they're good storage areas, said Severson-Baker, but because they're under an oilfield that would benefit from injection. He said deep saline aquifers, such as those being explored in Alberta, are better choices.

The suggestion that the Weyburn capture and storage project might be leaking could have implications far beyond one rural neighbourhood.

The Alberta government has committed $2 billion to similar pilot projects. The United States has committed $3.4 billion for carbon capture and storage.

Norway has been injecting carbon dioxide into the sea floor since 1996. There are carbon capture and storage tests planned in Australia, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, China and Japan.

9 Comments You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

Posted by: Leseratte January 11, 2011 at 3:51 PM One more step to getting closer to kill mankind! We will do it!

Posted by: tonobungay January 11, 2011 at 3:32 PM
The algal blooms don't prove anything, but the concentrations and isotopic analysis are pretty compelling proof that the reservoir is leaking. It's not the first CCS reservoir to do so. The West Pearl Queen site, a similar EOR experiment, also leaked. You don't need much of a leak to make carbon capture worse than doing nothing. For most processes, sequestering carbon requires extra energy and extra emissions, so even without a leak you usually end up emitting more extra GHGs than you bury.

It's very expensive for governments to literally pour our money into a hole in the ground. Would the same amount of money spent on something else, for instance on shutting down coal powered plants, result in more reductions per dollar spent? Almost every time!

Posted by: 23626877 January 11, 2011 at 1:58 PM
I spent a summer in the oil patch in Weyburn. There is hydrogen sulphide - H2S - there that is deadly in much of a concentration. If that were to surface, it would also result in death.

Posted by: 23626877 January 11, 2011 at 1:57 PM
When oil is pulled from the ground, it needs to be replaced - typically by water or gas - otherwise the area the oil occupies will become a void, possibly leading to collapse of the earth above.

Now, when one digs for gravel, a pit is created. That eventually fills with water, and they used it for livestock. On a low wind day, any CO2 that is seeping up would replace oxygen leading to asphyxiation. That can happen with any gas.

I don't recall seeing anything about the water being tested. It makes sense that various algae would appear, turning the water colours since it is stagnant water rather than flowing. It doesn't surprise me that there would be livestock death in there, whether by asphyxiation or toxic poisoning from algae would need to be determined.

Posted by: January 11, 2011 at 1:55 PM
I am not a climate scientist, but I do work closely with researchers in the field at a prominent research university. Many of my colleagues have questioned whether CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) is a good idea, and this example suggests that the technology is not ready for use.

There are FAR MORE zero- or low-cost options than CCS, which is considered an extremely high-cost option to reduce atmospheric CO2.

If the atmosphere were a person who had poor nutrition over time and developed severe obesity, CCS is like doing liposuction on one arm in small amounts for an extremely high cost. A more sensible approach would be to make many small lifestyle changes (behavior and policy changes in the real world) that reduce the source of the problem to begin with.

However, since policies take a while, millions of Americans are figuring out how to make a difference on their own. If you want to see your carbon footprint and some simple lifestyle choices to reduce it I highly recommend the UC Berkeley Carbon Footprint Calculator, which can be found at http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/uscalc.

Posted by: TAXEDOUT January 11, 2011 at 1:42 PM
YEP! big oil...keep finding new and improved ways to kill this planet and you wont need to worry about your profits...you won't be alive to spend it or hoard it. who needs money when we are all dead?

Posted by: stephanieanne January 11, 2011 at 12:38 PM
As Gored, I'm no scientist but their goal was to take harmful gases out of the air that are eroding earth and directly inject it into the earth? Ummmmm, can someone please tell me if I'm missing something, like I said, I'm no scientist but.....

Posted by: louis5 January 11, 2011 at 12:05 PM
Some people demand greater efficiency of energy extraction and conversion processes, and then propose co2 capture as a way of dealing with the "global warming emergency". But co2 capture is very energy intensive and makes processes less efficient.

More important is the fact that environmental remediation cannot work. Environmental remediation cannot restore nature anymore than can industry create net wealth. "Creating wealth" (net) and restoring nature through remediation are not rational goals, but just two tricks of enlightenment magic. The enlightened age is one big scam with some very offensive magic.

The only thing that will work regarding the overloading of nature by human designs is allowing for global ecosystems to rest. Of course this would require a much smaller human load. Now if liberal democracy can't handle this simple idea, then there is nothing except eventual collapse of global ecosystems.

In the mean time the middlepeople will continue to prosper by their magic tricks.

Posted by: Gored January 11, 2011 at 11:41 AM
What's the possibility that carbon dioxide could mix with sour gas and produce other deadly off-gases at surface. I don't know not a scientist just a thought? Regardless, it sounds like a real horror-show to me!
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