Could Carbon Sequestration Lead To More Earthquakes?

Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is bad for the planet and for human health, leading scientists and engineers alike to search for ways to capture this pollutant in a process known as carbon sequestration.

But new research has shown that putting C02 from cars and coal use out of sight might not really solve the problem.

According to Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback, storing carbon dioxide underground could trigger small earthquakes that might breach the storage system, allowing the gas back into the atmosphere (Stanford).

Carbon sequestration is the placement of CO2 into a repository in such a way that it will remain permanently sequestered. Efforts are focused on two categories of repositories: geologic formations and terrestrial ecosystems (NETL).

Even though the saline aquifers that make the best storage areas for carbon emissions are deep within the earth, they are made of dense, well-cemented sedimentary rock, with low permeability. This means that filling them with large amounts of pressure may trigger earthquake activity.

“It is not the shaking an earthquake causes at the surface that creates the hazard in this instance, it is what it does at depth,” Zoback told Stanford Univeristy News. “It may not take a very big earthquake to damage the seal of an underground reservoir that has been pumped full of carbon dioxide.”

Although it’s unlikely the earthquakes would be big enough to be a safety concern, allowing the carbon to seep back into the atmosphere would render the very costly and complex process of sequestration futile.

Stanford University News reports that “there are two sequestration projects already under way, in Norway and Algeria, and so far they appear to be working as planned. But Zoback said 3,400 such projects would be needed worldwide by midcentury to deal with the volume of carbon dioxide that we will be generating.”

Image Credit: Flickr - madiko83

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Nur O.
nur o.4 years ago


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

"permanently sequestered" -- there are NO "always" or "nevers" or "permanently" ..... but hey, let's just do it, and find out afterwards.

How about we go to clean renewable energy.

Russell R.
Russell R.4 years ago

Let the trees do there work - start replanting!

Eric Clough
Eric Clough4 years ago

Seriously? People think that we can improve our air quality by removing the CO2 that PLANTS BREATHE in order to create Oxygen for US to breathe? There is yet NO proof of global man-caused climate change. However if we go on with this insipid plan to remove the carbon dioxide from the air, we will soon be on an uninhabitable planet.

James P.
James P.4 years ago

POLITICIANS/elitists in power are able to lead the people by their noses & make a PROFIT on their stupidity!

"Global warming" started as "Global cooling" when I was a young man in the 70's -- all the prophets of doom predicted "glaciers moving south", "temperatures dropping", "coming ice age"!

When that was debunked, after a little time passed -- we started "warming"! After "climate gate", "global warming" became "Climate Change" -- which became CLIMATE "DISRUPTION"!

And as politicians decide on how best to "tackle this" & propose "Carbon Footprint" taxes and "Cap & Trade" (read "TAX"), the BUFFOON who came up with all this "inconvenient" rubbish, has a footprint SEVENTEEN TIMES GREATER than the rest of us!

Read more:

Since his film, lots of "inconvenient truths" have been discovered, but Al Gore is unwilling to respond to any questions!

Fascinating articles below, especially the 1st from a Canadian source:

Danuta W.
Danuta Watola4 years ago

This is great article

Danuta W.
Danuta Watola4 years ago


Girl Upnorth
.4 years ago

Thank you!

Philippa P.
Philippa P.4 years ago


Novinha L.
.4 years ago

Interesting, thanks!