Solving carbon and renewable energy storage in one go

7 January 2016
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
Killing two birds with one stone - a massive underground battery stores CO2 as well as renewable energy

Killing two birds with one stone - a massive underground battery stores CO2 as well as renewable energy

A massive underground system designed by American researchers could provide a solution for carbon capture and storage as well as intermittency of renewables – two major challenges for grid decarbonisation.

The system involves injecting liquid CO2 into underground reservoirs. As the reservoirs would be created in sedimentary rock, the pressure of the CO2 would push brine from the rocks up production wells towards the surface. There, the brine could be heated using surplus renewable energy and injected back into the reservoirs to store thermal energy.

As a result, the pressure of the CO2 would increase, enabling the system to be charged or discharged depending on energy demand. At times when there would not be enough wind or solar power generation due to less than optimal weather conditions, the pressure would be released and used to power energy generating turbines. This way, the system would essentially function as a giant battery, storing energy from renewables for later use, virtually killing two birds with one stone.

"If you want to store the large quantities of renewable energy necessary to balance seasonal supply-demand mismatches and store it efficiently, we believe the best way to do that is underground," said Thomas Buscheck from the University of Ohio, who led the team behind the study published in the latest issue of the journal Mechanical Engineering.

"We believe this is a cost-effective way to store the energy long enough so it can be used later," he added.

Based on computer modelling results, the researchers believe the system could store up to 4 million tonnes of CO2 every year over a 30-year period - equivalent to the CO2 impact of a 600 megawatt coal plant.

"Storing such vast quantities of CO2 creates so much pressure. This is the biggest challenge for keeping it permanently underground, but it is manageable," Buscheck said. "To make sure we don't have too much pressure, we can divert some of the produced brine to generate water through desalination. Then, if we tap into the remaining pressure, we can recharge the system selectively and put energy into our storage system when there's excess and deliver it when it's needed."

The system, seven years in development, was unveiled shortly after global leaders had agreed on a new binding action plan to stop the progressing global warming and limit the average global temperature increase to less than 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels.

To achieve the goal, the world would have to gradually abandon the use of fossil fuels. However, based on available data, even that would not be enough without also removing some of the climate warming carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Sales Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Precision Microdrives
    • London (Greater)
    • £25,000 - £30,000 starting salary, inclusive of on-target commissions.

    Precision Microdrives (PMD) is a fast growing technology company that designs, produces and trades miniature electro-mechanical mechanisms

    • Recruiter: Precision Microdrives

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new soluti...

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Analogue Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)
    • Uppsala (Stad) (SE)

    The Swedish Institute of Space Institute (IRF) in Uppsala search for an analogue electronics engineer.

    • Recruiter: Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Robotic Systems Engineer

    Premium job

    National Oceanographic Centre
    • Southampton, Hampshire
    • £45,271 to £49,207 per annum

    Responsible for technical oversight and project management of internally and externally funded innovation centre projects.

    • Recruiter: National Oceanographic Centre

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer - Water

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

    Mott MacDonald's highly successful Water and Environment Unit is recruiting an electrical engineer....

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Design Engineer

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

    Mott MacDonald's highly successful water business continues to win and deliver a fantastic amount of work....

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Launcher Verication & Validation Lead

    • Bristol
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity? Opportunity to join a very dynamic, responsive and multinational Launcher team, focussed on rapid development, proving and manufacture to meet challenging programme...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Technical Design Authority - Marine Systems (Mechanical)

    BAE Systems
    • Scotland, Glasgow
    • Negotiable

    Technical Design Authority - Marine Systems (Mechanical) Would you like to play an exciting and varied role working with the River Class Batch 2 (RCB2) vessels for the Royal Navy? We currently have a vacancy for a Technical Design Authority - Marine Syste

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T