The inherent tracer fingerprint of captured CO2

Flude, S. and Györe, D. and Stuart, F. M. and Zurakowska, M. and Boyce, A. J. and Haszeldine, R. S. and Chalaturnyk, R. and Gilfillan, S. M.V. (2017) The inherent tracer fingerprint of captured CO2. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 65. pp. 40-54. ISSN 1750-5836 (

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Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the only currently available technology that can directly reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions arising from fossil fuel combustion. Monitoring and verification of CO2 stored in geological reservoirs will be a regulatory requirement and so the development of reliable monitoring techniques is essential. The isotopic and trace gas composition − the inherent fingerprint − of captured CO2 streams is a potentially powerful, low cost geochemical technique for tracking the fate of injected gas in CCS projects; carbon and oxygen isotopes, in particular, have been used as geochemical tracers in a number of pilot CO2 storage sites, and noble gases are known to be powerful tracers of natural CO2 migration. However, the inherent tracer fingerprint in captured CO2 streams has yet to be robustly investigated and documented and key questions remain, including how consistent is the fingerprint, what controls it, and will it be retained en route to and within the storage reservoir? Here we present the first systematic measurements of the carbon and oxygen isotopes and the trace noble gas composition of anthropogenic CO2 captured from combustion power stations and fertiliser plants. The analysed CO2 is derived from coal, biomass and natural gas feedstocks, using amine capture, oxyfuel and gasification processes, from six different CO2 capture plants spanning four different countries. We find that δ13C values are primarily controlled by the δ13C of the feedstock while δ18O values are predominantly similar to atmospheric O2. Noble gases are of low concentration and exhibit relative element abundances different to expected reservoir baselines and air, with isotopic compositions that are similar to air or fractionated air. The use of inherent tracers for monitoring and verification was provisionally assessed by analysing CO2 samples produced from two field storage sites after CO2 injection. These experiments at Otway, Australia, and Aquistore, Canada, highlight the need for reliable baseline data. Noble gas data indicates noble gas stripping of the formation water and entrainment of Kr and Xe from an earlier injection experiment at Otway, and inheritance of a distinctive crustal radiogenic noble gas fingerprint at Aquistore. This fingerprint can be used to identify unplanned migration of the CO2 to the shallow subsurface or surface.