Scientists researching CO2 monitor for underground storage containers

GE (NYSE: GE) Global Research signed a contract with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory system, to build a multi-point sensing system to monitor carbon dioxide (CO2) injected into geothermal containment wells. The government is exploring the use of these sites as an option for long-term storage of CO2.

GE is currently testing a fiber optic cable with a sensor that can measure temperature and pressure at a single point inside the well. Readings from that pressure sensor have been calibrated to an accuracy of ±0.1 percent. This follow-up project would add a yet-to-be-determined number of additional sensors along the length of a multi-kilometer cable, enabling engineers to track the disbursement and movement of CO2 within the sequestration well with even greater precision.

Another key component of the project is wireless communication. GE scientists will develop a remote monitoring system capable of activating and operating the sensors from an off-site control room.

“The end-goal is to ensure confidence in the long term stability of CO2 sequestration sites,” said Dr. William Challener, principal investigator and physicist in the Photonics Lab at GE Global Research. “We believe the fiber optic cable and sensing system we’re tasked with fabricating will help make that goal a reality.”

Work on the two-year, $1.2 million joint venture between GE Global Research and NETL is scheduled to begin in January 2013.

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