|NRAP is using Science-based Prediction to Quantify Potential Risks
What is the NRAP Initiative?
The National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) has joined international efforts to develop the risk assessment tools needed for safe, permanent geologic CO2 storage. NRAP members include five national DOE laboratories that have been conducting collaborative research for the Office of Fossil Energy’s Carbon Sequestration Program for many years: NETL, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Members of the NETL-Regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA) also collaborate on this effort.
The NRAP initiative receives input from industry, government, non-government organizations, and academia regarding research needs for large-scale CO2 storage deployment. The NRAP collaborative also keeps abreast of international developments by participating in collaborations like the International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas Research and Development Programme’s Risk Assessment Network.
The primary objective of NRAP is to develop a defensible, science-based methodology and platform for quantifying risk profiles at most types of CO2 storage sites to guide decision making and risk management. NRAP will also develop monitoring and mitigation protocols to reduce uncertainty in the predicted long-term behavior of a site.
To assist in effective site characterization, selection, operation, and management, NRAP is considering potential risks associated with key operational concerns, as well as those associated with long-term liabilities. Operational issues include the management of reservoir pressure and stress to avoid conditions that might induce seismic activity. Issues associated with long-term liabilities include groundwater protection and storage permanence to avoid CO2 leakage.
Proposed Research, Expected Benefits
The NRAP initiative is being executed in three phases, each of which improves the science-based platform. Phase I is underway for the FY10–FY14 timeframe and focuses on quantification of risk profiles, trapping mechanisms, and associated uncertainties.
Phase II is ongoing and runs to FY14. Phase II focuses on the identification and development of risk management approaches that include strategic monitoring to verify system performance and lower uncertainty. Phase III addresses a potential need for additional data from field test(s). An integral component of the NRAP approach is to utilize laboratory and field data to calibrate and validate models. NRAP’s strategy in Phase I is to exploit existing data and ongoing field efforts to the extent possible, augmenting these data through the use of targeted laboratory-data and field-data efforts. Consequently, a Phase III field effort may be proposed for FY14 and FY15.
The NRAP research effort is divided into five technical components:
- Development of a methodology and computational platform for quantifying risk profiles (the increase and decrease of risk over time) based on integrated assessment models and uncertainly quantification.
- Targeted scientific investigations at the laboratory and field scale to calibrate component behavior and reduce uncertainties in predicted risk profiles.
- Integration of risk-based monitoring and mitigation strategies to reduce uncertainty and overall risk.
- Potential additional field-scale tests of specific processes to validate predicted behaviors of natural systems.
- Incorporation of phenomena specific to potential risks associated with storage of CO2 captured from industrial facilities (other than coal-fired power plants).
The tasks associated with the first four components address general issues associated with CO2 storage. The fifth addresses potential issues in capturing carbon from large stationary sources other than power plants. Though initial research efforts focused on managing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, CO2 can be captured at other industrial sources, which present unique challenges.
Expected results and benefits of NRAP’s efforts include:
- Removal of a key barrier to the business case for CO2 storage by providing the technical basis for quantifying long-term liability through development of a robust methodology and platform (computational tools) for quantifying risks (and associated uncertainties).
- More effective and efficient management of long-term storage sites by providing a protocol for integrating risk-based strategic monitoring and mitigation to reduce uncertainties and risk at a site.
- Confidence in setting storage-security metrics by providing a science-based ability to identify safe operational envelopes that minimize potential risks across a range of storage environments.
The tools and improved scientific base developed by the collaborative will help operators design and apply monitoring and mitigation strategies. They will help regulators and their agents quantify risks and perform cost-benefit analyses for specific CCS projects. Finally, financiers and regulators will be able to invest in and approve CCS projects with greater confidence because costs of long-term liability can be estimated more easily and with less uncertainty.