January 12, 2010: Underground gases tell the story of ice ages and America’s split jet stream

black Mesa

IU Press Release: "Deep underground aquifers in the American Southwest contain gases that tell of the region’s ancient climate, and support a growing consensus that the jet stream over North America was once split in two. The discoveries were made with a new paleohydrogeology tool, developed by Indiana University Bloomington geologist Chen Zhu and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology geologist Rolf Kipfer, that depends on the curious properties of noble gases as they seep through natural underground aquifers." MORE




IU Bloomington geologist is a 2008 Fulbright Scholar

IU Press Release: Geologist Chen Zhu has received a Fulbright Scholarship to study underground carbon dioxide storage with Norwegian colleagues at the University of Oslo. Zhu’s scholarship will last the duration of the 2008-2009 academic year.

The Fulbright Scholar Program sends approximately 800 academic scholars and professionals abroad every year so that America’s finest scholars may exchange knowledge with their counterparts in other countries. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Why Norway? Norwegian scientists have been particularly progressive in devising ways to divert industrially produced carbon dioxide into underground storage areas – a process known as carbon sequestration.

"Norway leads the world on sequestering carbon dioxide in saline aquifers," Zhu said. "The pioneering Sleipner project in the Norwegian North Sea stores about one million tons of carbon dioxide a year in the brine filled Utsira sandstone formation 1,000 meters below the seabed. If the carbon dioxide from the natural gas production stored there had instead been released to the air, the Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions would have risen by three per cent."

Geologists believe saline (salt-rich) aquifers and gas fields are best suited to absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide. What happens to the carbon dioxide once it is shunted underground is the subject of ongoing study in Norway, the U.S., and elsewhere. Zhu is particularly interested in chemical reactions that may occur once carbon dioxide has been introduced to its subterranean environments.

"Reaction kinetics is a significant topic in geochemistry because it is central to groundwater and surface water quality, soil development, global carbon cycling, and global climatic changes over geological time," Zhu said. "The Fulbright scholarship will help us stay at the forefront of this scientific discipline for the next five to 10 years."

Zhu has been studying carbon sequestration since 2000 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.