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Undersea bubble blowing begins

16 May 2012 - This week, in a world-first experiment, scientists started the controlled release of carbon dioxide into seabed sediments near Oban as part of a project to study the impact of a leak from a subsea CO2 storage site on the marine environment.

The release of CO2 –from land-based gas storage containers– will last for 30 days, seeping out of a stainless steel pipe buried 12m below the seabed surface at a rate of ~80-800kg per day. During this time researchers will monitor the migration of the gas through the sediment, the effects it has on the animals and microbes living there and changes to the CO2 as it passes through the upper layers of sediment. They will also study changes in the water column, which are expected to include reduced natural alkalinity from pH8.2 to slightly acidic pH6.5.

After 30 days the gas flow will be stopped and recovery of the sediment and the surrounds will be monitored for another 90 days. Scientists from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, which is leading the project, the National Oceanography Centre and eight scientists from Japan, who are also collaborating in the project, are here on site for much of the next month and a half during the experiment.

This 4-year project, known in full as Quantifying and Monitoring Potential Ecosystem Impacts of Geological Carbon Storage (QICS), is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council of the UK.

On an international level Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has received a lot of attention as a possible means to control global warming by capturing CO2 at source from power stations and storing it in subterrain or subsea reservoirs. The purpose of QICS is to investigate the nature and likelihood of a leak from such a reservoir, to calculate the environmental impact, to test methods of monitoring areas around a CCS site and to design better models to predict the impact of leak should it happen.

For more information on this project, please visit:

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