Subsurface geologic storage of carbon dioxide calls for sophisticated monitoring tools with respect to long-term safety and environmental impact issues. Despite extensive research, many factors governing the fate of injected carbon dioxide (CO2) remain unclear. To identify possible risks through leakage of the CO2 storage reservoir, a program for monitoring of the CO2 flux at the surface was started at the Ketzin test site, which allows to distinguish between natural temporal and spatial flux variations and a potential leakage.
To gain adequate long-term baseline data on the local background CO2 flux variations, CO2 soil gas flux, soil moisture, and temperature measurements were conducted once a month during a 6-yr period. Furthermore, soil samples were analyzed for their organic carbon and total nitrogen contents.
The mean flux of all sampling sites before the CO2 injection (2005–2007) was 2.8 μmol m−2 s−1 (ranging from 2.4 to 3.5), with a Q10 factor of 2.4, and in the years after commencing injection (2009–2010), 2.4 μmol m−2 s−1 (ranging from 2.2 to 2.5), with the same Q10 factor. The CO2 flux rate is mainly controlled by the soil temperature. A significant influence of diurnal temperature variation and soil moisture was not detected. The spatial variability of the CO2 flux among the 20 sampling locations ranges from 1.0 to 4.5 μmol m−2 s−1, depending on the organic carbon and total nitrogen content of the soil.
Through comparison with the long-term measurements, unusual high CO2 fluxes can theoretically be distinguished from natural variations.