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Keywords:

  • geologic carbon sequestration;
  • CO2 transportation;
  • pipeline leakage risk;
  • pipeline decompression;
  • atmospheric dispersion;
  • safety

Abstract

Pipeline transportation of fluids is a proven technology for moving large quantities of liquids and gases (e.g. hydrocarbons, hazardous liquids, hydrogen). The anticipated introduction of large-scale geologic carbon sequestration (GCS) as a means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will require the ability to transport massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) safely and economically. To accommodate GCS demands, the existing US and European CO2 pipeline infrastructure may eventually have to be expanded to be comparable in size to natural gas and oil pipeline systems. Furthermore, the new pipeline infrastructure will inevitably intersect with population centers as it connects sources with sink areas. There are important unanswered questions about pipeline network requirements, regulations, utility cost recovery, economics, regulatory classification of CO2 itself, and pipeline safety. The focus of this research is on this last aspect, i.e. safety of the general public, workers, and property related to the transportation of CO2. We carried out simulations that coupled two computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes to determine: (i) leakage rates from fully ruptured above-ground CO2 pipelines for a typical pipeline fluid composition, and (ii) the resulting atmospheric dispersion of the gas near the broken pipe. Using threshold values for atmospheric CO2 concentration, our work shows that concentrations dangerous to human health can extend on the order of hundreds of meters from the ruptured pipeline. This work contributes to the knowledge base needed to establish safety distances for routing CO2 pipelines through inhabited and other sensitive areas. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd