International collaboration

QICS (Quantifying and monitoring potential ecosystem Impacts of geological Carbon Storage) is a UK NERC-funded consortium project additionally collaborating with a consortium of Japanese researchers.

The primary aim of QICS is to develop knowledge of use to government, industry, regulators, environmental guardians and the public, establishing methodologies of detecting a leak of CO2 from carbon capture and storage and an understanding of any potential environmental consequences. QICS does not address the risk of leakage.

The UK-Japanese collaboration was facilitated by the British Embassy Science and Innovation department, with its roots in a workshop organised by the Embassy in January 2010.

The primary scientific goals of the QICS project are to develop an understanding of the fluxes and mechanisms that control the flow of CO2 in sediments, the water column and into the atmosphere; to understand the potential impacts on and resilience of marine ecosystems to CO2 leakage; to evaluate a range of monitoring techniques that could be deployed to detect leakage.

Whilst QICS is multidisciplinary, using a range of modelling and synthesis techniques, at its heart lies a novel release of CO2 into marine sediments. Although QICS will run until 2014, the experiment has already delivered several fundamentally new insights: the majority of CO2 manifests as dissolved rather than gas phase (contrary to expectations); physical flow routes are complex as are the geochemical responses of sediments. Biological impacts seem limited and recovery rapid for the relatively small CO2 dosage used.

QICS has shown that a multidisciplinary approach to observations, i.e. geophysics, chemistry, biology and hydrodynamics with multiple approaches to each are necessary to understand the marine system response. Thus the involvement of the Japanese consortium which has approximately doubled the scientific effort available has made a step change difference to the project.