SBIR Phase I: Achieving mass balance in carbon storage soil gas monitoring

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Mesa Photonics, LLC
1550 Pacheco St, Santa Fe, NM, 87505-3914
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
David Bomse
(505) 216-5015
Business Contact:
David Bomse
(505) 216-5015
Research Institution:

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will demonstrate a new method for monitoring carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites. CCS reduces global warming by using deep geological formations to store large amounts of carbon dioxide formed at power plants or separated from natural gas. The proposed measurement approach combines two recent innovations to create vadose-zone (i.e., near surface) soil gas analyzers that can discern carbon dioxide that is leaking from deep storage from the carbon dioxide that is formed by biogeochemical processes in soil. Existing soil gas analysis protocols require a year, or more, of baseline measurements to characterize seasonal variations in naturally-occurring CO2 concentrations. The long-term baseline determinations must be made prior to the start of carbon dioxide capture. The proposed approach, in contrast, works immediately and is suitable for retrofit to existing capture sites. Installation will be simple. Analyzers will be the size of a gallon of milk, will not require consumable supplies, and can be powered from small solar panels. Soil gas will be sampled automatically from small-diameter, shallow monitoring wells. Gas analysis uses proven optical methods and includes direct measurement of nitrogen, which is needed to obtain correct mass balance. The broader impact/commercialization potential of this project is to enable a realistic, near-term mitigation method for global warming. Alternative energy sources cannot solve the problem quickly enough. Limited supplies of rare earth metals constrain production of wind generators and high-efficiency electric motors. Widespread use of solar photovoltaic panels is constrained by the up-front energy requirements for panel production. Carbon capture and storage, in comparison, relies to a large extent on existing infrastructure. Established oil-field technology identifies suitable CCS sites and to pump carbon dioxide deep underground. Coal-rich nations such as the United States can minimize coal?s global warming impact while continuing to use abundant, inexpensive fuel. Monitoring methods are needed to verify performance of storage sites and to help assure the public of the reliability and safety of CCS. Vadose zone measurements are important because it is CO2 mixing with air that contributes to global warming. The initially targeted niche has a near-term addressable market of $200 million. The planned product should capture 30% of the addressable market. This addressable market comprises CCS sites co-located with large coal-burning facilities. There are about 2500 such facilities world-wide and 20% of their locations are geologically favorable for CCS.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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