What is carbon sequestration?

Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. The USGS is conducting assessments on two major types of carbon sequestration: geologic and biologic.

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How does carbon get into the atmosphere?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from two primary sources—natural and human activities. Natural sources of carbon dioxide include most animals, which exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. Human activities that lead to carbon dioxide emissions come primarily from energy production, including burning coal, oil, or natural gas.

How much carbon dioxide does the United States and the World emit each year from energy sources?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2014, the United States emitted 5.4 million metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide , while the global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide totaled 32.3 billion metric tons.

Has the USGS made any Biologic Carbon Sequestration assessments?

The USGS is congressionally mandated (2007 Energy Independence and Security Act) to conduct a comprehensive national assessment of storage and flux (flow) of carbon and the fluxes of other greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in ecosystems. At this writing, reports have been completed for Alaska , the Eastern U.S. , the Great Plains , and...

Which area is the best for geologic carbon sequestration?

It is difficult to characterize one area as “the best,” for carbon sequestration because the answer depends on the question – best for what? However, the area of the assessment with the most storage potential for carbon dioxide is the Coastal Plains region, which includes coastal basins from Texas to Georgia. That region accounts for 2,000 metric...

What’s the difference between geologic and biologic carbon sequestration?

Geologic carbon sequestration is the process of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in underground geologic formations. The CO2 is usually pressurized until it becomes a liquid, and then it is injected into porous rock formations in geologic basins. This method of carbon storage is also sometimes a part of enhanced oil recovery, otherwise known as...

How much carbon dioxide can the United States store via geologic sequestration?

In 2013, the USGS released the first-ever comprehensive, nation-wide assessment of geologic carbon sequestration , which estimates a mean storage potential of 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide. The assessment is the first geologically-based, probabilistic assessment, with a range of 2,400 to 3,700 metric gigatons of potential carbon dioxide...
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Date published: August 29, 2016

Groundwater Sampling Method Key to Monitoring Success of Carbon Sequestration

TECHNICAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Monitoring, verification and accounting are key parts to demonstrating the feasibility or success of integrated carbon capture and storage technologies.

Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: April 11, 2016

Methane from Some Wetlands May Lower Benefits of Carbon Sequestration

Methane emissions from restored wetlands may offset the benefits of carbon sequestration a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests. 

Date published: September 20, 2013

USGS Receives International Endorsement for Geologic Carbon Sequestration Methodology

The USGS methodology for assessing carbon dioxide (CO2) storage potential for geologic carbon sequestration was endorsed as a best practice for a country-wide storage potential assessment by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Date published: July 28, 2009

Carbon Sequestration: Implications for Wyoming

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research hydrologist Dr. Yousif Kharaka will present a talk in Cheyenne, Wyo. about the feasibility and implications of capturing and storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide underground in depleted oil fields and deep rock formations with salty aquifers.

Date published: March 16, 2009

New Science Gauges Potential to Store CO2

A new method to assess the nation's potential for storing carbon dioxide could lead to techniques for lessening the impacts of climate change, according to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who praised a U.S. Geological Survey report in an energy teleconference today.

Date published: July 23, 2008

"Carbon farm" project will study ways to capture atmospheric CO2

Imagine a new kind of farming in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta - "carbon-capture" farming, which traps atmospheric carbon dioxide and rebuilds lost soils. 

Date published: October 22, 1999

USGS Scientist Discusses Feasibility of CO2 Burial...

Depleted gas reservoirs can provide enough storage to limit carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels for at least 20 years, to levels set for the U.S. under the 1997 Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming, according to Dr. Robert Burruss of the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Uncovering the Ecosystem Service Value of Carbon Sequestration in National Parks. Photo by Robert Crootof, NPS.
December 8, 2016

A valley with smog pollution from Carbon Sequestration.

Uncovering the Ecosystem Service Value of Carbon Sequestration in National Parks. Photo by Robert Crootof, NPS.

January 27, 2011

PubTalk 1/2011 — Capture and Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide

Is Sequestration Necessary? Can We Do It at an Acceptable Total Cost?

By Yousif Kharaka, USGS National Research Program


  • Combustion of fossil fuels currently releases approximately 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere annually
  • Increased anthropogenic emissions have dramatically raised
March 22, 2009

Can We Move Carbon from the Atmosphere and into Rocks?

A new method to assess the Nation's potential for storing carbon dioxide in rocks below the earth's surface could help lessen climate change impacts. The injection and storage of liquid carbon dioxide into subsurface rocks is known as geologic carbon sequestration.

USGS scientist Robert Burruss discusses this new methodology and how it can help mitigate climate

Carbon emissions associated with land use, land use change, and disturbance
November 30, 2000

Carbon emissions associated with land change for the Sierra Nevadas

For the A1B-LUD scenario, cumulative emissions associated with land use, land use change, and disturbance (left) and projected land use, land cover, and disturbance area (right).

Major Carbon Pools

Major Carbon Pools

Infographic showing major carbon storage pools