Evaluating impacts of CO2 intrusion into an unconsolidated aquifer: I. Experimental data

Amanda Lawter, Nikolla P. Qafoku, Guohui Wang, Hongbo Shao, Christopher F. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Capture and deep subsurface sequestration of CO2 has been identified as a potential mitigation technique for rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Sequestered CO2 represents a potential risk to overlying aquifers if the CO2 leaks from the deep storage complex. Batch and column experiments combined with wet chemical extractions were conducted to evaluate these risks to groundwater quality and to understand effects of unintentional release of CO2 on groundwater chemistry and aquifer mineralogy. Sediments from the High Plains aquifer in Kansas, a largely unconsolidated aquifer, were used to study time-dependent release of major, minor and trace elements when exposed to CO2 gas. Results showed that Ca, Ba, Si, Mg, Sr, Na, and K increased either within the first 4 h or followed nonlinear increasing trends with time, indicating that dissolution and/or desorption reactions controlled their release. In addition, other elements (e.g., Fe and Mn) and trace elements (e.g., As, Cu, Cr, Pb) were released during batch and column experiments, demonstrating the possibility for changes in mineralogy and groundwater quality degradation due to exposure to seepage of sequestered CO2. National drinking water regulations were exceeded for As and Mn in the batch experiments, and As, Se, Mn, Pb and Hg in the column experiments, despite low levels of these contaminants found in the sediments. In addition, the concentration of another potential contaminant, i.e., Mo, was consistently higher in the control batch experiments (i.e., absence of CO2) but was below detection in the presence of CO2 indicating a potential for removal of elements by CO2 gas exposure. Although results will be site specific for the High Plains aquifer and other mostly unconsolidated aquifers, these investigations will provide useful information to support site selection, risk assessment, and public education efforts associated with geological CO2 storage and sequestration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-333
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • CO gas
  • Contaminant release
  • Groundwater contamination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Energy(all)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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