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U.S. Estimates Its Ability to Store Carbon Underground
June 28, 2013

Scientists pull samples like this basaltic rock from underground rock formations to determine their suitability to store injected carbon dioxide.

June 27, 2013

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has calculated the carbon storage capacity of the United States. The data can be used in a strategy to counter climate change by storing carbon emissions in rock to prevent their release into the atmosphere.

The United States has the potential to store about 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide in geologic basins throughout the country, according to the first-ever national carbon-sequestration assessment released June 26 by the USGS. The assessment comes on the heels of a national plan to combat climate change announced by President Obama June 25.

“This USGS research is groundbreaking because it is the first realistic view of technically accessible carbon storage capacity in these basins,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in a press release from the Department of the Interior. “If enough of this capacity also proves to be environmentally and economically viable, then geologic carbon sequestration could help us reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.”

Technically accessible storage resources are those that can be accessed using today’s technology. The most common method of geologic carbon storage involves pressurizing carbon dioxide into a liquid and then injecting it into subsurface rock layers for long-term storage.

“Today’s assessment from the USGS is just the latest example of how the Department of the Interior is applying rigorous, peer-reviewed science to some of our nation’s most complex land- and resource-management challenges,” said Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes. “Nowhere is this more important than the issue of climate change, and today’s new research adds to the USGS’s groundbreaking work in biological carbon sequestration to better inform our carbon reduction efforts.”

The rock layers included in the assessment were determined to have natural seals to prevent carbon dioxide from escaping. The assessment also focused only on rock layers located at depths at which carbon dioxide would stay under enough pressure to remain liquid.