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Putting our heads together to put CO2 underground for good

June 2011

A new computer-based knowledge management system being developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will help scientists share their discoveries about what's happening deep underground before, during and after carbon sequestration.

One solution to lowering the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that coal-fired power plants release into the atmosphere is to store the CO2 deep underground. The process is called carbon sequestration and it's got scientists around the globe trying to figure out what the CO2 will do once it's isolated underground. To really have an impact, their discoveries need to be shared with other scientists--quickly and in a way that is accessible.

A new computer-based knowledge management system being developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will help scientists to share their discoveries and engineers to manage their projects more effectively. The Geologic Sequestration Software Suite, or GS3, is a web-based platform that will act as a virtual laboratory.

Scientists will be able to use their own tools to model how gases are moving and reacting to existing rocks. Using GS3, new data and scientific understanding can be rapidly validated and incorporated into modeling tools that are accessible to all users. GS3 also allows scientists to use a variety of sophisticated simulators. These modeling tools and simulators will be continuously updated and available for use at sequestration sites.

Accelerating safe, long-term storage

GS3 will help accelerate more comprehensive planning for safe, long-term underground storage of greenhouse gases. It could help oversight agencies better define permitting requirements for storage projects and evaluate permit applications because it tracks the process used to study a particular site and determine its suitability. GS3 also could help evaluate the impact of having numerous storage sites within a region.

"Using GS3, we can paint the most comprehensive picture of what's happening underground and then refine our models or assumptions," said Alain Bonneville, manager of the Carbon Sequestration Initiative at PNNL. "GS3 allows us to manage and track data through the model building and simulation process in a way that allows us to also easily update that data over the lifespan of a carbon storage project, which could span 150 years—50 years of active injection and decades of monitoring afterwards."

How it works

A team of computer and subsurface scientists, and engineers are working together to combine existing open-source software components with PNNL-developed tools to create a novel, flexible and dynamic framework for scientific knowledge management directed at geologic sequestration.

Choosing an appropriate place to store greenhouse gases begins with collecting data that define the geology of the subsurface. Using those data, scientists build a 3-D image or geologic model of the subsurface and then use simulation tools to help them understand how the greenhouse gases will behave once injected underground under different scenarios.

As that understanding increases and more data is collected, the models are updated to reflect the new information. Then more-and better-simulations are performed. New data and scientific understanding are incorporated more efficiently into those models, using a variety of sophisticated simulators, including high-performance computing simulators. This process repeats itself over the lifetime of the project.

For more information see this PNNL news release:

For information on PNNL's Carbon Sequestration Initiative, see this PNNL web site:

For more about this business area, see Clean Fossil Energy.

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