Carbon Capture and Geologic Sequestration: Linking Undergraduate Education with Cutting Edge Research

2009-13 GC Seed Grant

This initiative, led by Professor Catherine Peters, is exposing students to cutting edge geologic carbon sequestration (GCS) technology while bridging the gap between scientists, who study geological processes and build models to predict CO2 leakage, and decision-makers in the public and private-sectors, who need to use this information in a practical way to make siting and investment decisions to manage GCS risks .

The project builds on an existing collaboration between Princeton professors, scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and at the University of Minnesota to engage undergraduates interested in climate change mitigation. The collaboration, entitled “Basin-Scale Leakage Risks from Geologic Carbon Sequestration: Impact on GCS Energy Market Competitiveness”, seeks to develop capabilities to link the energy market competitiveness of GCS with the liabilities and economic losses that may arise if there is CO2 leakage.

To date, Peters and colleagues have developed a unique leakage risk model capable of evaluating the role of geochemical interactions in caprock integrity, a capability currently absent from most GCS risk models. Using this model, they are seeking to develop a framework to quantify leakage risk in probabilistic terms, and combine it with a basin-scale model of competing subsurface land uses.

Educational Impacts

The project spawned a new course, CEE599: “Carbon Capture and Geologic Sequestration” , by Peters and faculty colleague, Mike Celia in the fall of 2009.  The course leveraged “green” video conferencing technology to provide a virtual classroom link with research colleagues and GCS experts at the University of Bergen, Norway.  As part of this Grand Challenges supported course, 11 Princeton undergraduate and graduate students travelled to Norway to meet with industry representatives involved in GCS projects during their fall break.

In the fall of 2011, Professor Peters is teaching a “Special Topics” course on the modeling of geochemical kinetics and reactive transport.  The course includes a number of applications relevant to geologic carbon sequestration.

Other Outcomes

The project has resulted in the following publication to date:

Ellis, B.R.; Peters, C.A.; Fitts, J.P.; Bromhal, G.S.; McIntyre, D.L.; Warzinski, R.P.; Rosenbaum, E.J. 2011. “Deterioration of a fractured carbonate caprock exposed to CO2-acidifed brine flow”. Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, Vol 1 No 3, p. 248-260 (2011), doi: 10.1002/ghg.25

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Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering