Innovative energy project set to use cosmic rays for monitoring

A research consortium involving Newcastle University has won government and industry funding to develop a novel technique using cosmic rays for monitoring storage sites for carbon dioxide.

Geoscientists, particle physicists and engineers will work together to examine the potential of using muons -sub-atomic particles from cosmic rays- which cascade from the upper atmosphere and go on to penetrate rock several kilometres underground. The detection of cosmic ray muons can be used to map the density profile of the material above the detectors and hence measure on-going levels of CO2 in any potential carbon store.

The team is being led by Durham University and involves Newcastle, Sheffield and Bath universities, the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech supported by Premier Oil & Gas and Cleveland Potash Limited.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change is providing £647,000 for the monitoring project alongside matched funding from industry.

Carbon storage could play a major part of UK and global environmental policies to tackle global warming but still allow us to generate clean, affordable energy.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) refers to the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from major sources of emission, such as fossil fuel power stations, to prevent it entering the atmosphere. The carbon is then transported (this could be in fluid form by pipeline) to a storage site. Old oil and gas fields, such as those in the North Sea, are considered to be potential storage sites. Capturing and storing carbon dioxide is seen as a way to prevent global warming and ocean acidification.

The current monitoring methodology is expensive and typically involves the collection of seismic data which enables snapshots of carbon storage levels to be taken over time. Muon tomography offers the chance to develop a continuous and passive monitoring system for deep sub-surface storage sites.


published on: 21st November 2012

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