Research from the University of Texas in Austin has shown that injecting air and carbon dioxide into methane ice deposits buried beneath the Gulf of Mexico could have the potential to unlock natural gas energy resources, while also trapping the carbon dioxide underground.
The study was published in the journal Water Resources Research, which used computer models to simulate what would happen when mixtures of carbon dioxide and air were injected into deposits of methane hydrate, a water-rich, almost ice-like chemical compound that forms in high-pressure and low-temperature environments, like the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic circle.
Nitrogen in the injected air sweeps the methane toward a production well and allows carbon dioxide to take its place. The approach extracts natural gas from methane hydrate deposits and stores carbon dioxide in an environment where researchers said it is unlikely to be released into the atmosphere. The nitrogen breaks down the methane hydrates, then the carbon dioxide crystallizes into a slow-moving wave of carbon dioxide hydrate behind the escaping methane gas. Computer simulations indicate that the process can be repeated with increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide until the reservoir becomes saturated.
The Jackson School and the UT Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering are currently testing the new method in a facility in the Jackson School.