A team at the UK’s Centre for Gas Hydrate Research, at Heriot-Watt University is investigating a novel carbon capture mechanism that exploits that fact that, in some conditions, seawater and carbon dioxide could combine into ice-like compounds in which the water molecules form cavities that act as cages, trapping the carbon dioxide molecules.

Backed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) the research aims to allow the development of a secondary seal mechanism for subsurface carbon dioxide storage. The mechanism relies on a process in which carbon dioxide forms carbon dioxide hydrates in sedimentary pores saturated with seawater. This would effectively create a secondary seal, blocking sediment pores and cracks, and slowing or preventing leakage of the carbon dioxide.

Project leader Professor Bahman Tohidi said: “We want to identify the type of seabed locations where sediment, temperature and pressure are conducive to the formation of carbon dioxide hydrates,” adding: “This data can then be used to help identify the securest locations for carbon dioxide storage and can aid in the development of methods for monitoring potential leakage.

The research team is examining exactly how and where hydrates form, and establishing the optimum conditions that enable this process to take place. The three-year project is due to run until September 2008 and is receiving EPSRC funding of nearly £298,000 ($193,000).