Captured, but maybe not sequestered

A former oilfield in Saskatchewan that is being used to store carbon dioxide from a North Dakota coal gasification plant may be leaking.

A Canadian Press story this morning tells of a couple who say that gas leaking from the Weyburn oilfield is killing animals near their farm and sending carbonated groundwater foaming from the surface.

The couple, Cameron and Jane Kerr, hired a consultant, who reports finding high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the soil around their farm.

“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.”

The Weyburn site was cited in a recent EPA report as an “encouraging” example of how carbon dioxide can be stored safely.

Carbon dioxide is not poisonous, but can cause death by asphyxiation. In 1986, a massive discharge of carbon dioxide from a volcanic eruption in Cameroon killed 1,700 people.

In November, the EPA finalized standards for monitoring CO2 levels at sequestration sites to ensure safe drinking water.

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