In the first study of its kind, scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial sources such as power stations, has a distinctive chemical fingerprint – firmly distinguishing it from other naturally occurring CO2.

Much like an individual human fingerprint record, researchers from the University of Edinburgh uncovered that captured CO2 and CO2 from natural sources such as geological storage reservoirs and drinking water aquifiers both have different and unique chemical prints.

As a result, the investigation discovered that the CO2 being injected underground in carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not need to have expensive chemical tracers added in order to monitor that it is effectively contained.

This paves the way for natural fingerprints to be used to track the CO2 once it is injected underground for storage

This advance will help to monitor safe storage of CO2 captured from these industrial sources and will seek to bolster the development of CCS technology.

Dr. Stephanie Flude, lead of the study, signified, “Defining these natural fingerprints in captured CO2 will simplify the monitoring of geological CO2 storage sites. This method is inexpensive as it removes the need to add additional expensive artificial tracers to the CO2 being stored.”

The study’s co-ordinator Dr. Stuart Gilfillan, also commented, “There has been a pressing need to identify a means to distinguish CO2 to be stored from that already in the subsurface to help CCS deployment. Our study shows that natural fingerprints in the captured CO2 are unique and depend on the capture technologies being used.”

“This paves the way for natural fingerprints to be used to track the CO2 once it is injected underground for storage.”

The natural fingerprint of captured CO2 varies on the fuel producing the gas, such as coal, oil, natural gas or biomass, and the technology used to capture it.