Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through carbon dioxide storage

Subsurface monitoring

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CSIRO provides expertise and capabilities in monitoring and verification (M&V) technologies for the geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

These are being incorporated to verify containment security in the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) Otway Project.

Research approach

Monitoring the migration patterns and behaviour of injected CO2 is an integral part of carbon dioxide geological storage. 

The monitoring methods used to verify the safe storage of CO2 underground are heavily borrowed from the petroleum industry, which have been using these technologies for decades in oil and gas exploration. 

The close collaboration of CSIRO with the oil and gas industry allows the implementation of existing sound knowledge to be specifically applied to CO2 storage.

The research and technologies that CSIRO applies to the monitoring of CO2 aim to:

  • verify that injected CO2 remains in the deep subsurface
  • confirm the effectiveness and safety of the site for CO2 storage
  • understand the behaviour of the injected CO2
  • develop existing and new M&V technologies that can be used in future carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in Australia and world wide
  • help develop suitable regulatory frameworks for CO2 storage with Australian regulators and governments
  • monitor any changing levels of CO2 in the soil, groundwater, atmosphere and deep underground. 


The CO2CRC Otway Project monitoring and verification program benefits from CSIRO’s unique and broad range of expertise.  The team combines years of in-house expertise, analysis, interpretation, industry experience and collection of high quality data in:

  • CSIRO's geochemical and geophysical technologies underpin the research into monitoring carbon dioxide plumes underground.
    fluid flow dynamics
  • inorganic geochemistry
  • geology
  • gas and isotope geochemistry
  • numerical modelling
  • rock physics.

Applying the capability

Regular geochemical and geophysical monitoring is conducted prior to injection to produce a baseline for comparison, and is consistently measured throughout project timelines.  The M&V program builds upon the comprehensive site characterisation studies which are essential to develop robust risk assessment and M&V plans that are regularly reviewed and enhanced.

CSIRO's geochemical and geophysical technologies underpin the research into the migration monitoring and verification of CO2 plumes in the subsurface.

The monitoring CSIRO conducts includes:

  • Tracer program: CO2 and related compounds of the injected CO2 stream are ‘tagged’ using chemical tracers. These tracers enable researchers to track the movement and distribution of the injected CO2 and associated products. This provides additional information on the long term fate of injected CO2 and confirms that there have been no seeps to shallow aquifers, soils or the atmosphere via regular testing of collected samples.

    At the CO2CRC Otway Project, participants including CSIRO have successfully applied a novel tracer, CD4  (perdeuterated methane) to tag the CO2 body underground.

    Tracers SF6  (sulphur hexafluoride), krypton and R-134a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane) are also used. CSIRO are investigating the utility of other tracer compounds in laboratory and field scale tests.

  • Geophysics: CSIRO conducts microseismic surveys to detect subtle changes in the reservoir associated with the presence of injected CO2 over time.

    CSIRO have expertise in the processing, analysis and modelling of 4D seismic to delineate CO2 movement over time.

    Currently CSIRO is examining the seismic properties of reservoir rocks, such as sandstones, saturated with CO2, to determine whether the distribution of CO2 can be detected using remote imaging.  

  • Hydrodynamics and geochemistry: The water chemistry of overlying aquifers is monitored in terms of pressure and chemistry to study the effect of injecting CO2 on freshwater resources and ensure that the unlikely event of seepage of injected CO2 is detected early.

  • Sensors: Within CSIRO, significant capability exists to address direct sensing of tracers in-situ as well as in testing facilities to monitor CO2 locations.


Technologies for monitoring and verifying the behaviour of an injected CO2 plume will demonstrate the safe storage of CO2 to community, industry and government.

New technologies are continually being enhanced and developed to provide further information on how the CO2 behaves in the subsurface and determine the geological formations that are most suitable for its long-term storage.

Procedures developed by CSIRO to monitor CO2 storage underground will define trigger points and contingency actions should the monitoring and verification techniques indicate that the storage site is not functioning as anticipated.

For more information contact:

Dr Linda Stalker
Senior Gas Geochemist
Earth Science and Resource Engineering
Phone: 61 8 6436 8909 
Fax: 61 8 6436 8555 

Read more about Petroleum geoscience: Organic and isotope geochemistry brochure.

CRC for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) logo.