Published online 19 November 2008 | Nature 456, 290 (2008) | doi:10.1038/456290a

News in Brief: Snapshot

Snapshot: Carbon stores

Click to enlarge.NETL/DOE

A newly updated atlas from the US Department of Energy shows how North America might store its excess carbon dioxide — if it could figure out how to do so.

On the left is a map showing many of the known stationary CO2 sources in the United States and Canada. Blue represents electricity generation, with many power plants clustered in the east and midwest. Orange represents cement manufacturing, including groupings in southern California. Red indicates petroleum and natural-gas processing, showing up most starkly as the Alberta tar sands in Canada.

Potential reservoirs for sequestering much of the CO2 from such activities could be deep saline formations (above right, in blue), or layers of rock permeated with brine. The new atlas estimates that saline formations could hold anywhere from 920 billion–3,400 billion tonnes of CO2. This dwarfs the potential for existing oil and gas reservoirs (82 billion tonnes) or unmineable coal seams (156 billion–184 billion tonnes).

Yet turning saline formations from dream reservoir into sequestration reality remains a challenge. In Alberta, a consortium is in the process of identifying potential formations for a test project to begin in 2009. 

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