The Energy Blend: Craig native energized about carbon capture research | CraigDailyPress.com

The Energy Blend: Craig native energized about carbon capture research

Anna Herring studying geological possibilities in Australia

Anna Herring, pictured, is a Craig native with a PhD in environmental engineering from Oregon State University who is currently researching geologic carbon dioxide sequestration at Australian National University.

For the past year, Northwest Colorado's own Anna Herring has been hard at work Down Under.

A 2006 graduate of Moffat County High School who received a PhD in environmental engineering from Oregon State University, Herring has been performing research on geologic carbon dioxide sequestration at Australian National University.

The Craig Daily Press caught up with Herring about her work and how it could impact the world.

CDP:CDP: What kind of advances have you had in your research with carbon capture/sequestration? What kind of advances have you had in your research with carbon capture/sequestration?

CDP: What kind of advances have you had in your research with carbon capture/sequestration?

Herring:Herring: My research focuses on the transport of carbon dioxide (CO2) in subsurface geologic systems after the CO2 has been captured from the emissions stream of a power plant and injected several hundred meters underground. My research is in the storage component of carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is an important area of study because we need to be able to predict on what length and time scales the CO2 will migrate in the subsurface, so that we can undertake these injections safely. We specifically want to stabilize the CO2 in the pore structure of the underground rock formations in order to prevent the buoyant CO2 fluid from traveling up toward the surface where it could potentially contaminate groundwater, or be released to the atmosphere. My research focuses on the transport of carbon dioxide (CO2) in subsurface geologic systems after the CO2 has been captured from the emissions stream of a power plant and injected several hundred meters underground. My research is in the storage component of carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is an important area of study because we need to be able to predict on what length and time scales the CO2 will migrate in the subsurface, so that we can undertake these injections safely. We specifically want to stabilize the CO2 in the pore structure of the underground rock formations in order to prevent the buoyant CO2 fluid from traveling up toward the surface where it could potentially contaminate groundwater, or be released to the atmosphere.

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Herring: My research focuses on the transport of carbon dioxide (CO2) in subsurface geologic systems after the CO2 has been captured from the emissions stream of a power plant and injected several hundred meters underground. My research is in the storage component of carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is an important area of study because we need to be able to predict on what length and time scales the CO2 will migrate in the subsurface, so that we can undertake these injections safely. We specifically want to stabilize the CO2 in the pore structure of the underground rock formations in order to prevent the buoyant CO2 fluid from traveling up toward the surface where it could potentially contaminate groundwater, or be released to the atmosphere.

In general, scientists, geologists and engineers working in this field are definitely moving toward the goal of being able to accurately predict and control the movement of the CO2 plume once it’s injected underground; we have been developing a better understanding of the fluid flow properties of CO2 under different reservoir conditions — different pressure and temperature conditions — and in different geologic systems.

In my research, specifically, we recently published a paper detailing some experiments in which we demonstrated that we can manipulate injection patterns using an intermittent injection scheme to stabilize greater quantities of the injected CO2, which makes the injection safer.

CDP:CDP: With the background in the specific areas of science you have, what is it that draws you to this kind of project? With the background in the specific areas of science you have, what is it that draws you to this kind of project?

CDP: With the background in the specific areas of science you have, what is it that draws you to this kind of project?

Herring:Herring: I'm interested in CO2 sequestration because I think it is a viable pathway toward carbon-emissions-free energy production. Climate change is the biggest challenge and threat facing humanity right now, and we are already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of rising global temperatures and extreme weather events. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing massive coral bleaching and die-off events due to increasing water temperatures and acidification of the ocean. Our current fossil fuel based modes of energy production are absolutely unsustainable, and we simply cannot continue with this business-as-usual attitude. Combating climate change will require a compete shift to different energy production methods — solar, wind, etc. — and associated with that, an overhaul of our energy distribution grid. But, at this point, our renewable energy options are not advanced enough to meet the capacity we require, and waiting for these technologies to reach that point is not an option. I'm interested in CO2 sequestration because I think it is a viable pathway toward carbon-emissions-free energy production. Climate change is the biggest challenge and threat facing humanity right now, and we are already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of rising global temperatures and extreme weather events. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing massive coral bleaching and die-off events due to increasing water temperatures and acidification of the ocean. Our current fossil fuel based modes of energy production are absolutely unsustainable, and we simply cannot continue with this business-as-usual attitude. Combating climate change will require a compete shift to different energy production methods — solar, wind, etc. — and associated with that, an overhaul of our energy distribution grid. But, at this point, our renewable energy options are not advanced enough to meet the capacity we require, and waiting for these technologies to reach that point is not an option.

Herring: I’m interested in CO2 sequestration because I think it is a viable pathway toward carbon-emissions-free energy production. Climate change is the biggest challenge and threat facing humanity right now, and we are already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of rising global temperatures and extreme weather events. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing massive coral bleaching and die-off events due to increasing water temperatures and acidification of the ocean. Our current fossil fuel based modes of energy production are absolutely unsustainable, and we simply cannot continue with this business-as-usual attitude. Combating climate change will require a compete shift to different energy production methods — solar, wind, etc. — and associated with that, an overhaul of our energy distribution grid. But, at this point, our renewable energy options are not advanced enough to meet the capacity we require, and waiting for these technologies to reach that point is not an option.

CDP:CDP: Do you anticipate the development of carbon capture projects to be long-term, or do you believe carbon capture could be implemented sooner than we think? Do you anticipate the development of carbon capture projects to be long-term, or do you believe carbon capture could be implemented sooner than we think?

CDP: Do you anticipate the development of carbon capture projects to be long-term, or do you believe carbon capture could be implemented sooner than we think?

Herring:Herring: I think of CCS as a moderate-term technology: implementation would allow us to continue to utilize coal and other fossil fuel powers both in the U.S. and abroad for the next, say, 50 to a couple hundred years, until renewable energy options are mature enough for fossil fuel technologies to be phased out. I think of CCS as a moderate-term technology: implementation would allow us to continue to utilize coal and other fossil fuel powers both in the U.S. and abroad for the next, say, 50 to a couple hundred years, until renewable energy options are mature enough for fossil fuel technologies to be phased out.

Herring: I think of CCS as a moderate-term technology: implementation would allow us to continue to utilize coal and other fossil fuel powers both in the U.S. and abroad for the next, say, 50 to a couple hundred years, until renewable energy options are mature enough for fossil fuel technologies to be phased out.

CCS has actually been successfully implemented in Norway in an offshore geological formation, the Sleipner Project, since 1996. There, it is used to sequester carbon emissions produced from natural gas energy production. CCS is not an untested or even very new technology. The challenge for new CCS projects in the U.S. and Australia is that ideally the storage reservoir needs to be located near the energy production site; so for coal power in the US, this entails on-shore storage.

On-shore storage has different engineering challenges versus off-shore storage and also requires stricter safety controls, as the storage sites are more closely located to human populations. This is why we are actively researching ways to ensure safe and predictable injection schemes.

CDP:CDP: Based on your knowledge of Northwest Colorado or comparable regions of the USA or even the world, do you see carbon capture being harmful to their way of life? Based on your knowledge of Northwest Colorado or comparable regions of the USA or even the world, do you see carbon capture being harmful to their way of life?

CDP: Based on your knowledge of Northwest Colorado or comparable regions of the USA or even the world, do you see carbon capture being harmful to their way of life?

Herring:Herring: Implementing CCS will raise the cost of coal power production significantly. Whether that has an overall positive or negative effect on communities with economies based on coal is debatable. For independent coal mines, implementing CCS could be beneficial: power plants would have to buy more coal to produce the same amount of commercially available power because some of the power generated would have to be used to pressurize CO2 and pump it underground, so the demand for coal increases. Implementing CCS will raise the cost of coal power production significantly. Whether that has an overall positive or negative effect on communities with economies based on coal is debatable. For independent coal mines, implementing CCS could be beneficial: power plants would have to buy more coal to produce the same amount of commercially available power because some of the power generated would have to be used to pressurize CO2 and pump it underground, so the demand for coal increases.

Herring: Implementing CCS will raise the cost of coal power production significantly. Whether that has an overall positive or negative effect on communities with economies based on coal is debatable. For independent coal mines, implementing CCS could be beneficial: power plants would have to buy more coal to produce the same amount of commercially available power because some of the power generated would have to be used to pressurize CO2 and pump it underground, so the demand for coal increases.

Conversely, for power plants, this means implementing CCS would decrease profits, which is a cost they would likely pass on to consumers. But generally, consumers aren’t local, so I’m not sure how much that cost increase would affect the local community. Implementing CCS would require building new facilities for transport and storage, which would generate quite a lot of new jobs. It’s a complex issue, and I’m not an economist, but my understanding is that overall, implementing CCS would be a net positive economically to communities based around coal production.

CDP:CDP: What are the ecological impacts positive or negative that could occur if carbon capture were used on a wide scale? What are the ecological impacts positive or negative that could occur if carbon capture were used on a wide scale?

CDP: What are the ecological impacts positive or negative that could occur if carbon capture were used on a wide scale?

Herring:Herring: The main ecological benefit of CCS operations is that they severely limit or eliminate carbon emissions due to power production, which is necessary to reduce climate change impacts. The main ecological benefit of CCS operations is that they severely limit or eliminate carbon emissions due to power production, which is necessary to reduce climate change impacts.

Herring: The main ecological benefit of CCS operations is that they severely limit or eliminate carbon emissions due to power production, which is necessary to reduce climate change impacts.

But, CCS operations do have ecological risks: if the injected CO2 is not securely immobilized in the subsurface, CO2 could migrate away from the injection point and contaminate, or acidify, groundwater or be released to the atmosphere, which is precisely the effect we are trying to avoid. In very specific geographic locations — like bowl-shaped areas, where a leak could occur in the lowlands — a CO2 leak could cause health impacts. CO2 is more dense than oxygen, so if CO2 is leaked at a high enough rate, it could displace the oxygen in the “bowl”, leading to low oxygen levels, which cause health issues or even death for human and animal population. This last scenario is a pretty unlikely risk, but it is something we need to take into account and work to prevent. My research is aimed at securely immobilizing CO2 in the subsurface to prevent exactly these kinds of effects.

CDP:CDP: With a personal connection to mining, has your work been a contentious issue? With a personal connection to mining, has your work been a contentious issue?

CDP: With a personal connection to mining, has your work been a contentious issue?

Herring:Herring: My dad works at a coal mine, but my research topic has never been a contentious issue in my family at all. My dad works at a coal mine, but my research topic has never been a contentious issue in my family at all.

Herring: My dad works at a coal mine, but my research topic has never been a contentious issue in my family at all.

Really, the challenges we face with climate change right now do not require an intrinsically anti-coal or anti-fossil fuel solution. They do require compromises on the part of the energy production industry and efficient, effective solutions, which can be implemented quickly. It is simply not an option to continue with our current energy production system as is.

We need to keep promoting renewable energy development and start limiting our carbon emissions as soon as possible. I think the CCS approach to this problem is actually very compatible and considerate of communities who rely on our traditional fossil-fuel heavy methods of energy production.

— Interview by Andy Bockelman— Interview by Andy Bockelman— Interview by Andy Bockelman