Dr. Susan Hovorka, Gulf Coast Carbon Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Put It Back: Geologic Sequestration for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

In this talk, Dr. Susan Hovorka will discuss one of the promising but little known options to reduce atmospheric emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Oxidation (by burning) of carbon stored in fossil fuels—coal, oil, gas—has transferred more than 250 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere since 1800. Changes in atmospheric concentration of CO2 show that the rates of emission exceed the rates of uptake, resulting in increases of atmospheric CO2. Fossil fuel reserves and rapidly growing global energy demand suggest that continuation of “business as usual” will result in rapidly increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. A variety of risks ranging from increased average temperature to decreased pH of ocean surface water are predicted from this change.

One method of reducing CO2 emissions, while still using fossil fuel resources, is to capture the CO2 from the combustion source before it is released to the atmosphere, and re-inject it into the subsurface of geologic environments similar to those from which it was extracted. This “put it back” process is known as carbon capture and geologic sequestration. Hovorka’s research focuses on developing and testing techniques to assure that geologic sequestration sites will retain stored CO2 for geologically significant time periods.

Susan D. Hovorka is a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, at The University of Texas at Austin. She has a BA in geology from Earlham College and an MA and PhD from The University of Texas. She has worked on diverse topics related to water quality protection, waste storage in bedded salt, and reservoir characterization. Her current research focuses on assessment of effectiveness of subsurface geologic sequestration of CO2 as a mechanism for reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. Hovorka is the principle investigator of the Gulf Coast Carbon Center (www.gulfcoastcarbon.org), an industry/academic partnership working on economically viable approaches to geologic sequestration of CO2. She is the project lead for the “Early” test of the Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB) which has monitored injection of two million tons of CO2 at Denbury’s Cranfield Field. She recently led a research team in the completion of the two-phase Frio Pilot, a first U.S. field test of storage of CO2 in brine-filled sandstones also funded by DOE-NETL. Both of these projects have been recognized by the international Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum. Hovorka is also active in facilitating exchange between applied scientists and the broader public, with a focus on pre-college students and teachers, and is co-investigator for the STORE education program (www.storeco2now.com).