US energy researchers say they can use bees, pollen and helium-filled balloons to make sure carbon sequestration sites are really keeping in CO2.
The technique, devised by scientists at the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), involves “fingerprinting” stored CO2 with a chemical tracer that makes it readily identifiable from atmospheric carbon dioxide. The researchers can then check local beehives to see whether the bees bring back pollen with signs of the chemical tracer, or whether the bees themselves show signs of tracer from direct contact with plants.
As a check on the bee method, scientists can also test for carbon dioxide leaks by sending large, helium-filled balloons into the air to measure for possible plumes of escaping CO2 containing the chemical tracer.
According to the research team, the bee and balloon strategies provide an excellent way to test for carbon dioxide leaks without disrupting natural habitats around sequestration sites.
Too bad we couldn’t have shipped a few balloons and beehives to Spremberg, Germany, where word got out this week that Vattenfall’s much-hyped Schwarze Pumpe carbon-capture-and-storage project has actually been releasing all its captured CO2 right back into the atmosphere, as residents opposed plans to store the greenhouse gas under their community.