More than a third of CO2 emissions caused by man arise from the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. One of today's major challenges is to develop secure and sustainable technologies that will help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, caused particularly by power plants, steel and cement production as well as the petrochemical industry. One promising approach is the capture of the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated during these industrial processes with subsequent underground storage in geological formations.
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The Ketzin Pilot Site was launched in 2004 under the CO2SINK project – "CO2 Storage by Injection into a Natural Saline Aquifer at Ketzin"– supported by the European Union (EU)'s Research Framework Programme 6 (FP6). CO2SINK has been Europe's first project for the onshore storage of carbon dioxide in underground rock formations saturated with salt water (saline aquifers) with a 72 month action plan to progress and refine the techniques of underground storage of carbon dioxide. The work carried out at the Ketzin Pilot Site was additionally supported by German nationally funded projects and industry partners. Currently, research is carried out under the CO2MAN project funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).
Ketzin/Havel is a small town to the west of Berlin, close to Potsdam. The rural area is characterised by strings of interconnected lakes, rivers and canals. An underground sandstone rock formation reservoir suitable for CO2 storage is located at 620 to 650 metres below the surface. The site geology is well-suited for creating an "in-situ laboratory" for CO2 storage which could help fill the scientific gap between the conceptual understanding of geological storage and a fully-fledged demonstration site.
A particular focus of the project has been the development and testing of techniques for monitoring the behaviour and safety of the CO2 stored underground.
Understanding how well the gas is sealed underground is key to understanding the risks involved.
From June 2008 to May 2012, more than 60.000 tons of CO2 were injected into the underground rocks and the behaviour of the gas was monitored using different geophysical, geochemical and geomicrobiological techniques applied both at the surface and underground. The key objective was to evaluate the reservoir's stability and integrity.
At the same time considerable effort was made to inform and educate the wider community about the project and underground storage. The Ketzin Pilot Site and its research objectives received widespread local support.
The promising results from the Ketzin Pilot Site have inspired further research projects in Europe and across the world.
"There has been great interest in emerging and industrial countries all over the world in the methods applied at the Ketzin Pilot Site and the results we have achieved," says Fabian Möller of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences.
With CO2SINK, the most advanced monitoring project worldwide has been established and this has triggered a variety of national and international projects focused on underground storage. In Europe, there are now a number of 'Ketzin inspired' projects such as MUSTANG. This large-scale integrating project, running from 2009 to 2013 and financed under the EU's FP7 programme, will take the work in the field of CO2 storage another step forward.
Under the MUSTANG project a number of test sites with a wide diversity in location, geology, reservoir properties and depths are being investigated, including sites from regions that have not been investigated earlier, namely Eastern Europe and the Middle-East. Test sites are used in MUSTANG to estimate their suitability for CO2 storage.