The Global View

Ancient rocks in Oman could yield clues to carbon storage

A group of British researchers have returned from a trip to the Middle East with new insights about how to possibly store large volumes of carbon dioxide deep underground.

That strategy — called carbon capture and storage, or CCS — is considered to be a vital part of the effort to reduce atmospheric carbon levels and prevent dangerous climate change.

This past January, a team of scientists from Imperial College London journeyed to Oman to explore the region’s rocky desert outcrops. Those formations extend deep underground all the way through Saudi Arabia and into Oman, and they currently provide natural storage for a vast amount of natural gas — enough to meet the UK’s needs for the next 200 years.

Depleted gas reservoirs in the region hold potential as long-term storage sites for carbon dioxide.

The scientists’ expedition was part of a £70-million, 10-year collaborative project between Imperial, Qatar Petroleum and Shell International. The Qatar Carbonate and Carbon Storage Research Centre (QCCSRC) project is aimed at developing a better understanding of both CCS and how to more efficiently and effectively extract gas reserves in the Qatar region.

“We have a unique opportunity here to look at rock layering that we see at the surface, that we can touch, that we can sample and then analyse in the lab and relate our observation to what can be seen in the subsurface in, say, Qatar,” said Cedric M. John, a geologist at Imperial College London and principal investigator with the QCCSRC.

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