Efficient marine environmental characterization to support monitoring of geological CO2 storage
Carbon capture and storage is key for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and offshore geological formations provide vast CO2 storage potential. Monitoring of sub-seabed CO2 storage sites requires that anomalies signifying a loss of containment be detected, and if attributed to storage, quantified and their impact assessed. However, monitoring at or above the seabed is only useful if one can reliably differentiate abnormal signals from natural variability. Baseline acquisition is the default option for describing the natural state, however we argue that a comprehensive baseline assessment is likely expensive and time-bound, given the multi-decadal nature of CCS operations and the dynamic heterogeneity of the marine environment. We present an outline of the elements comprising an efficient marine environmental baseline to support offshore monitoring. We demonstrate that many of these elements can be derived from pre-existing and ongoing sources, not necessarily related to CCS project development. We argue that a sufficient baseline can be achieved by identifying key emergent properties of the system rather than assembling an extensive description of the physical, chemical and biological states. Further, that contemporary comparisons between impacted and non-impacted sites are likely to be as valuable as before and after comparisons. However, as these emergent properties may be nuanced between sites and seasons and comparative studies need to be validated by the careful choice of reference site, a site-specific understanding of the scales of heterogeneity will be an invaluable component of a baseline.