Trace metal mobility in sub-seabed sediments by CO2 seepage under high-pressure conditions
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScience of the Total Environment. 2020, 700 1-12. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134761
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the third contributor to cumulative carbon emission reductions required by the second half of this century. Although this is a promising technology for reducing atmospheric CO2, it is only affordable if the confinement of the gas is guaranteed for hundreds of years. Hence, it is of paramount importance to figure out and predict the chemical and biological effects associated with potential CO2 leakage, to provide decision makers with a good basis for choosing technology and potential storage sites. To this end, a titanium reactor (1.4 m3) was used to study CO2 seepage under realistic sub-seabed conditions (30 bar pressure and 7 °C). The injection of CO2 was calibrated to decrease the pH value from 8.1 to 7.3, which may be the pH found near a leakage point. This pH value also coincides with predictions for near-future ocean pH under current CO2 emissions worldwide. The results from this study demonstrate that there are some elements, i.e., Fe, Co, Pb, Ce, Zn and Cu, present in deep marine sediments, that are strongly affected by the reduced pH levels related to CO2 addition. The dissolved concentrations of Fe, Pb and, to a lesser extent, Cr increased, due probably to weakening of the Fe/Mn shuttle by increased dissolved concentrations of CO2. Desorption processes from oxyhydroxide surfaces due to acidification may explain the release of Co, Ni and Ce observed during the experiment. The increased CO2 concentration also led to increased metal bioavailability, suggested by higher values for labile metal species. Conversely, Cd mobility seems not to be affected by CO2-associated acidification. It is concluded that the determination of those elements most affected by CO2-related acidification in a sub-seabed CO2 storage perimeter (i.e., sediment, sediment–water interface and water column) would be a simple and effective technique to verify suspected leakage.