Research highlight

Noble clues to interaction between carbon and groundwater

Nature Geoscience

July 27, 2009

Groundwater is key to the storage of carbon dioxide in aquifers and gas fields, and to the formation of many hydrocarbon deposits like crude oil, according to an overview published online in Nature Geoscience. Societies are generally dependent on fossil-fuel energy sources, but their use has also resulted in the rise of climate-altering atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar and Christopher Ballentine reviewed the use of noble gases ― including neon and argon ― as tracers for the movement and cycling of carbon dioxide in groundwater systems. Their review showed that groundwater stores much of the carbon dioxide that enters the aquifer. Groundwater was also seen to transport hydrocarbons to underground 'traps', where they can be more easily recovered by drilling. However, groundwater can also degrade existing reservoirs.

They conclude that noble gases could be used to monitor any leakage of human-created carbon dioxide that has been removed from the atmosphere and stored in aquifers or oil and gas fields.

doi: 10.1038/ngeo588

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