PNNL research finds new way to store carbon emissions - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

PNNL research finds new way to store carbon emissions

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RICHLAND, Wash.-- Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are making some major contributions to the developing science of storing carbon emissions underground.

Carbon dioxide gases are harmful to the environment and in the U.S. we produce a lot of it. A new atlas from the Department of Energy shows when CO2 emissions from industrial sources and power plants can be stored underground. PNNL found that our area could be home to some of the best storage land in the U.S.

PNNL's carbon storage research is on it's way to putting the environmentally harmful gas in the ground in what could be the best way yet. The most accepted place to store CO2 emissions was thought to be in deep underground salty water reservoirs. But PNNL has found that basalt rock, like the ground found here in southeastern Washington. It's a more effective long term choice says scientist Todd Schaef. 

"It's important for this area because we are one of the few that can actually take this type of greenhouse gas and put it underground and store it in a permanent way, or make it a solid where it's going to stay there forever," says Schaef.

PNNL scientists have simulated the process for CO2 storage by using a machine that compresses the gas so much that it becomes a liquid. Then it's pressured deep into basalt ground where it would fill into the porous rock and eventually become a solid. Basalt land is found mostly in the northwest and southeastern U.S.

"Here is a good example of how we in the Pacific Northwest can start to mitigate or impact global climate change by taking this carbon dioxide and putting it underground," says Schaef.

The PNNL basalt storage discovery has the potential to be a positive change for our country.

"Basalts rock! We're all excited here at the laboratories and we cannot wait to get this out into the field," says Schaef.

Researchers found that there is at least five hundred years of geologic storage for CO2 in North America. The atlas found that carbon dioxide emission sources tend to be near storage locations, conveniently making the transfer much easier.