$5M CTLab upgrade to help with carbon storage research

Monday 7 November 2016

An X-ray microscopy laboratory at The Australian National University (ANU) was officially opened on Monday following a $5 million upgrade to help store carbon dioxide underground.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the CTLab at ANU would be an important development for carbon storage research. 

"I'm looking forward to seeing what CTLab can achieve, backed by funding the Coalition guaranteed, as this research will play an important role in managing carbon dioxide emissions in industries such as cement, steel, chemical and fertiliser production, as well as fossil fuelled power generation," Minister Birmingham said.

The renovated laboratory at ANU is funded by CO2CRC Limited and the Australian Government's Education Investment Fund, and is part of the $51.6 million Australian CCS Research Laboratories Network (CCSNET).

Associate Professor Adrian Sheppard from ANU said CTLab housed new state-of-the-art equipment including X-ray microscopes which scientists can use to observe carbon dioxide being trapped in aquifer rocks.

"Secure storage of the carbon dioxide depends on interactions between salty groundwater and the injected carbon dioxide within microscopic gaps in the underground rocks. Our 3D microscopes give us an unprecedented ability to observe these interactions directly," said Dr Sheppard, who is the Head of the ANU Department of Applied Mathematics.

The new facilities would enable ANU scientists to build accurate large-scale computer models explaining how complex layers of sedimentary rock influence the effectiveness of carbon dioxide storage, Dr Sheppard said. 

CTLab is a national centre for X-ray microscopy that conducts pioneering research in a range of fields including biomedical applications, advanced aerospace materials, anthropology and paleontology. 

Tania Constable, Chief Executive Officer of CO2CRC, said the CCSNET laboratories were part of an interconnected set of assets in Australia that will reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage, while ensuring long-term safety. 

"The ANU assets, as well as others around Australia, will provide vital workflows, data and technologies that are relevant to flagship carbon capture and storage projects locally and internationally," she said.

"If we are to have any chance of achieving Australia's emissions reduction targets we'll need to implement a range of responses: renewable energy, greater energy efficiency, fuel switching, and the use of carbon capture and storage as the major technology to curb industrial emissions."

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