The topic was part of a broader discussion about earthquakes and energy-related activities at a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing Tuesday. The hearing was tied to the release last Friday of a report on whether hydraulic fracturing – forcing fluids under high pressure into certain shale formations to crack the rock and release the natural gas – could increase the risk of earthquakes.
That report, by the National Research Council, concluded that "fracking" presented little risk of triggering quakes that could be felt at the surface. But it added that injection wells used to dispose of waste from fracking and other forms of oil and gas extraction posed a higher risk of triggering temblors than fracking itself. The study pointed out that little was known about the quake-triggering potential of carbon capture and storage.
Carbon capture and storage has long been considered a potentially potent arrow in the greenhouse-gas-control quiver. In the United States, the climate bill Congress considered but failed to pass in 2009 would have invested some $60 billion by 2025 in research and demonstration projects.
Globally, 29 large-scale sequestration projects at power plants have been undertaken during the past several years, according to a database maintained by the Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Of those, 10 are in the US but four have been canceled, largely due to a rocky economy and uncertainty regarding US climate policy.