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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: August 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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  • Unique "fingerprints" could help carbon capture efforts

A new methodology could lead to improved monitoring of geologic carbon sequestration. Although not yet commercially viable, underground sequestration of carbon dioxide is being explored as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

At present, if several companies decided to sequester CO2 in the same location, it would be difficult to determine which company’s CO2 were escaping if a leak occurred. Effective monitoring is needed, since large releases of CO2 could invalidate tax breaks that companies might receive for carbon sequestration and could potentially pose human health risks.

The research group Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) is working on a way to determine whose carbon is whose by using unique chemical “fingerprints.” Other researchers have been able to assign carbon emissions to particular emitters by labeling those emissions with noble gases like krypton and xenon, which are nonreactive and thus are conserved in the emissions. However, adding noble gases would increase the cost of a sequestration project. Instead, SCCS plans to determine the composition of noble gases already present in the emissions, which is expected to vary based on the fuel burned. The group intends to test this theory at what it hopes will be the world’s first commercial scale carbon capture and storage facility, which it plans to open in 2014 at a coal plant owned by SaskPower in Saskatchewan, Canada.






Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; Sophia Ford, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern; and Brittany Huhmann, Clinton Koch, and John Kemper 2013 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: The American Meteorological Society, the Arctic Council, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Register, the House of Representatives, National Academies Press, National Park Service, Nature Geoscience, Scottish Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Space Policy Online, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Senate, the White House


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Geoscience Policy Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and others as part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. More information on these topics can be found on the Geoscience Policy Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.



Compiled September 9, 2013


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