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What If We Jammed CO2 Into The Holes Left By Fracking?

The Marcellus Shale formation alone could store half of all carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants between now and 2030. Even better–the injection sites are already drilled into the ground.

What If We Jammed CO2 Into The Holes Left By Fracking?
[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

Fracking, the drilling process of squeezing gas from shale rock, is controversial and a lot of people don’t like it because of the environmental damage it causes.

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But the fracking boom could have its consolations. Depleted shale rock might be a perfect place for storing captured carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

In the U.S., the 600-square-mile Marcellus shale formation could store half of all CO2 emissions from power plants between now and 2030, according to computer modeling by researchers at the University of Virginia. That’s a big deal: CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas and stopping it from reaching the atmosphere would make a big difference as we wrestle with climate change.

The big advantage of using fracking sites, says a new study they’ve published, is that the holes are already in the ground (you don’t need extra drilling) and you could use a similar process to sequestering the gas as fracking itself, which involves pumping pressurized water and chemicals to release gas to the surface.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) hasn’t taken off as expected in the last five years, despite big government investments in Europe and the U.S. But at least we know there might be sites where carbon could go if the injection process becomes fully commercialized.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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