Report: CO2 Leaking from Saskatchewan CCS Site

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The huge Weyburn carbon capture and storage project is often cited as proof that CO2 can be stored safely. If this report proves true,  the entire concept is in deep trouble.

Climate & Capitalism has long been skeptical about Carbon Capture and Storage. Back in 2008 we wrote an open letter to Canada’s Environment Minister, about his promise that CCS would solve Canada’s emissions problems. We said:

There are many very knowledgeable, very intelligent people in your department, and I’m sure they have told you the truth about CCS: it won’t do the job, no one knows if it is safe, and it won’t arrive in time. You have been told that, and yet you chose to tell the public that CCS is the silver bullet needed to stop Canada from continuing as one of the worst GHG emitters in the world.

Now the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project, in Weyburn Saskatchewan, is reported to be leaking greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The federal Government didn’t discover this, and the provincial government refused even to investigate. So a farm couple who live over the site hired an independent consultant to determine why small animals have been dying, and groundwater is foaming up like shaken pop.

The Canadian Press reports today:

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. …

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….

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.”

Cenovus, the company that runs the site, denies the findings, and says it has hired three consultants to evaluate Lafleur’s work. The Provincial government says it has never found any indication of a CO2 leak.

And as you know, corporations and governments never lie.

1 Comment

  • Carbon capture and storage is actually a misnomer; what it’s really about is carbon dioxide capture and storage.

    Even if it could be made to work, it would sequester from the biosphere two oxygen atoms for every one carbon atom – why do we want to sequester oxygen?

    Moreover, storing carbon in the form of a gas is far less efficient than storing it as a solid or liquid. There are way more carbon atoms in a single gram of solid carbon than there are in a litre of pure carbon dioxide. Better to try sequestering charcoal – or leaving hydrocarbons in the ground in the first place!