CO2 Emissions Underground CCS

Published on May 9th, 2012 | by Silvio Marcacci

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500 Years of Underground Carbon Storage Mapped across North America

May 9th, 2012 by  

Underground CCS

Potential sites mapped out across the continent

North America has at least 500 years of underground carbon dioxide (CO2) storage capacity, according to the North American Carbon Storage Atlas (NACSA). The project, a joint venture between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, is the first-ever atlas to map out potential storage sites.

While the atlas includes high- and low-range estimates, the low (and more realistic) end finds 136 billion metric tons of storage in oil and gas fields, 65 billion metric tons in coal fields, and 1.7 trillion metric tons in saline reservoirs. Combined, these sites represent over 500 years of storage.

Key Data Merged

In addition to mapping out potential storage sites, NACSA also plots the locations of 2,250 large, stationary carbon dioxide sources, mainly large fossil-fuel burning power plants. The combined data has been used to create an online viewer and website, and integrates contributions from the 400 organizations in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships.

By overlaying the two sides of the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) equation — capture and transportation — the atlas may help facilitate building the infrastructure necessary to capture emissions while all three countries transition to clean energy sources.

Cost Hurdles Remain

The feasibility of CCS has long been debated, but would be a critical tool to slowing climate change. CCS covers many different types of technologies, but the basic theory is that CO2 emissions are captured at large point sources (like power plants) and chilled to a liquid form. Once converted, the CO2 would be piped to suitable locations and safely sequestered underground.

Adding the requisite equipment to existing smokestacks and building new pipelines would cost millions of dollars per site, a significant hurdle to the technology best embodied by the DOE’s oft-delayed FutureGen project.

Some Testing Completed

However, a related project may be reducing the gap between potential and reality by testing potential CO2 storage sites. DOE recently announced test drilling had been completed at three potential underground storage sites, with two located in proximity to significant emissions sources.

The Newark basin, which runs under a heavily industrialized section of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania is estimated to have a storage capacity of up to 10 billion metric tons. The Rock Springs Uplift, in southwestern Wyoming, is located near several of the state’s largest emissions sources and has a storage capacity of 23 billion metric tons.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.



  • mk1313

    A 500 year disaster waiting to happen! One of those wells goes bad like the deepwater horizon and everyone in nearby towns suffocate not to mention the environmental effects of such a concentrated release. The disaster will happen, not if but when!

  • Mark

    1,200 year supply of hay production mapped for horse and buggies

    5,000 year supply of stones mapped for stone axes

    It’s time for us to walk away from our 19th century energy technology before it throws us all back into the stone age.

    It’s time for us to step into the 21st century, to extraordinary energy efficiency and zero-combustion energy.

    • Ross

      LOL. And at least we know the rocks are likely to still be within operating parameters in 500 years.

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