By Tyler Irving
Posted February 2012
In January 2011, Cameron and Jane Kerr alleged that COfrom a nearby experimental carbon storage project was leaking onto their farm near Weyburn, Sask. A year later, two independent investigations have concluded that this is not the case.
The project consists of piping CO14C indicated a young carbon source. Since 14C has a half-life of about 5,730 years, it would have been absent in CO from the several million-year-old coal deposits.from a coal gasification plant in North Dakota into an oil field operated by Canadian oil company Cenovus. Last summer, Cenovus contracted TRIUM Environmental to undertake extensive soil and surface water sampling operations on the property. The results, delivered last November, show CO2 concentrations consistent with what is commonly found in prairie soil gas in summer. Moreover, carbon levels were inversely correlated with oxygen levels, a sign that the CO was produced by biological respiration. Finally, the presence of unstable
Last December, a second report was published by the Regina-based International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of CO(IPAC-CO2). The group also found inversely correlated oxygen and CO levels as well as noble gas signatures consistent with surface-generated gas. IPAC-CO2 explained some of the other phenomena on the Kerr farm, such as a blue, silvery sheen on a pond that was produced by bacteria and algae, not leaking petroleum. Carmen Dybwad, CEO of IPAC-CO2, says that the findings should instil confidence in the industry. “We can’t say definitively that no CCS project will ever leak,” Dybwad says. “What we can say that we now have a protocol to assess whether or not any carbon dioxide is natural or anthropogenic in source.” IPAC-CO2 has developed what it hopes will be a global standard by which to assess future CCS projects.
In a media release, Ecojustice lawyer Barry Robinson, who represented the Kerrs, accepted the IPAC-CO2 study’s findings while emphasizing its necessity, saying that “without a full scale investigation, it has been impossible until now to rule out COcontamination.”
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