Near-Surface Leakage Monitoring for the Verification And Accounting of Geologic Carbon Sequestration Using a Field Ready 14c Isotopic Analyzer Email Page
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Performer: Planetary Emissions Management Inc.
Award Number: FE0001116
Project Duration: 01/15/2010 – 04/14/2014
Total Award Value: $2,907,949.00
DOE Share: $1,595,928.00
Performer Share: $1,312,021.00
Technology Area: Monitoring, Verification, Accounting, and Assessment
Key Technology: Atmospheric Monitoring

Project Description

This four-year project — performed by Planetary Emissions Management, Inc. (PEM) — is developing a carbon-14 (14C) field-ready analyzer having a sensitivity of approximately 1 ppm of fossil fuel CO2 in ambient air. The primary focus of the application is within the near surface environment covering the project area, however, a gas stream from any component of a geologic carbon storage project or location may be analyzed. The analyzer is based on PEM’s already completed multi-isotopic Global Monitor Platform (GMP) and is being deployed for testing and validation at two reference sites: one where CO2 leaks from natural geologic reservoirs and the other a pilot CO2 injection site.

Project Benefits

Through its core research and development program administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) emphasizes monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA), as well as computer simulation and risk assessment, of possible carbon dioxide (CO2) leakage at CO2 geologic storage sites. MVA efforts focus on the development and deployment of technologies that can provide an accurate accounting of stored CO2, with a high level of confidence that the CO2 will remain stored underground permanently. Effective application of these MVA technologies will ensure the safety of geologic storage projects with respect to both human health and the environment, and can provide the basis for establishing carbon credit trading markets for geologically storing CO2. Computer simulation can be used to estimate CO2 plume and pressure movement within the storage formation as well as aid in determining safe operational parameters; results from computer simulations can be used to refine  and update a given site’s MVA plan. Risk assessment research focuses on identifying and quantifying potential risks to humans and the environment associated with geologic storage of CO2, and helping to ensure that these risks remain low.

As carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) capacity increases and projects become commercial beyond 2020, the importance of accurate geologic models and robust risk assessment protocols will become increasingly important to project developers, regulators, and other stakeholders. NETL’s Carbon Storage Program aims to continue improvements to the models and risk assessment protocols. Specific goals within the Simulation and Risk Assessment Focus Area that will enable the Carbon Storage Program to meet current programmatic goals are to (1) validate and improve existing simulation codes which will enhance the prediction and accuracy of CO2 movement in deep geologic formations to within ± 30 percent accuracy, (2) validate risk assessment process models using results from large-scale storage projects to develop risk assessment profiles for specific projects, and (3) develop basin-scale models to support the management of pressure, CO2 plume, and saline plume impacts from multiple injections for long-term stewardship in major basins of the United States.

This technology represents a breakthrough in the capability to directly track fossil fuel CO2 with high precision and lower costs than existing Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) approaches. The realization of increased data rates for 14C analysis at lowered cost is expected to benefit end users in MVA programs as well as policymakers and the public. Furthermore, an increased data rate for a number of locations offers the opportunity to create spatial baselines for 14C of atmospheric CO2, as well as from a variety of environments in the near-surface zones of the geologic reservoir holding sequestered CO2. The research will provide a monitoring tool that improved the ability to detect any CO2 releases from the storage formation to monitor for storage permanence.


The primary objective of the DOE’s Carbon Storage Program is to develop technologies to safely and permanently store CO2 and reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions without adversely affecting energy use or hindering economic growth. The Programmatic goals of Carbon Storage research are: (1) estimating CO2 storage capacity in geologic formations; (2) demonstrating that 99 percent of injected CO2 remains in the injection zone(s); (3) improving efficiency of storage operations; and (4) developing Best Practices Manuals (BPMs).

The overall project goal is to field a high-resolution, low-cost, spatial and temporal data analyzer for direct tracking of fossil fuel CO2—namely, the 14C content of CO2—as a means to detect leakage of geologically stored CO2 (GSC) (Figure 1). This effort will help to meet the goal of assuring CO2 storage permanence in the subsurface. The primary focus of the application is within the near-surface environment covering the project area; however, a gas stream from any component of a GSC project or location may be analyzed. Further objectives are to:

  • Deploy the 14C analyzer as a spatial array of devices across the project location to monitor and verify leakage of GSC at project-relevant scales.

  • Co-deploy an already developed 13C radiocarbon analyzer in a common instrument platform offering simultaneous 13C and 14C isotope ratios.

  • Continue development with the ultimate goal of commercializing the analyzer.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager William Aljoe:
Technology Manager Traci Rodosta:
Principal Investigator :


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