Carbon Storage


When assessing a storage site, some of the reservoir characteristics that are studied for long-term carbon dioxide (CO2) storage include storage resource, injectivity, integrity, and depth. The term "subsurface storage complex" refers to the geologic storage site that is targeted to safely and permanently store injected CO2 underground. It includes a storage formation with at least one, or usually multiple, regionally continuous sealing formations called caprocks or seals.

  • Storage Resource – A storage site needs to have sufficient storage resource (space) to contain large amounts (millions of metric tons) of compressed CO2. The storage resource is a fraction of the pore volume of porous and permeable sedimentary formations available for storage.
  • Injectivity – This refers to the rate at which CO2 can be injected into the subsurface. Injectivity of the CO2 is directly related to the permeability of the formation. The permeability of a formation is a measure of the resistance to fluid flow through it. If fluid can easily pass through the formation, it has “high permeability.”
  • Integrity – This refers to the ability to confine CO2 safely within a predetermined volume without a breach from the storage complex. A storage complex must have one or more confining zones that seal above the injected formation that are intact and do not have leakage pathways.
  • Depth – The CO2 storage zone needs to be located at a sufficient depth and pressure so that CO2 can be injected as a supercritical fluid. Supercritical CO2 is dense and behaves more like a liquid than a gas, allowing for storage of higher concentrations of CO2 by volume.

All of these characteristics are examined in order to determine if a potential storage complex has adequate conditions for CO2 storage.

Image depicting the features of different types of carbon storage complexes including saline formations, oil and natural gas reservoirs, unmineable coal areas, organic-rich shales, and basalt formations. All of the complexes include: (1) a confining zone that includes a thick (or several) sealing layer(s) above the storage zone, separating the stored CO2 from drinking water sources and the surface; (2) adequate integrity within the storage formation and sealing layers; (3) sufficient porosity and permeability to store large amounts of CO2; and (4) are at supercritical depth to allow for concentrated storage.
(mouseover image for more detailed description of portions of the complex)

Myth: Any location that has an injection well can be used to inject and store carbon.
Reality: A specific set of characteristics are needed to make a setting appropriate to act as a storage complex. These characteristics are determined through a rigorous characterization process that includes assessing potential storage risks and meeting the regulations under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) permitting process that grants permission to inject CO2 for carbon storage purposes.


Power Plants CO2 Pipelines Water Rock Layers Formation Types