The Big Business of Burying Carbon

(Originally published by Wired on July 28, 2022) 

Jeffrey Ball 1

The porous rock beneath the Gulf Coast launched the petroleum age. Now entrepreneurs want to turn it into a gigantic sponge for storing CO2.

Sometime after the dinosaurs died, sediment started pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Hour after hour the rivers brought it in—sand from the infant Rockies, the mucky stuff of ecosystems. Year after year the layers of sand hardened into strata of sandstone, pushed down ever deeper into the terrestrial pressure cooker. Slowly, over ages, the fossil matter inside the rock simmered into fossil fuels.

And then, one day in early 1901, an oil well in East Texas pierced a layer of rock more than 1,000 feet below Spindletop Hill, and the well let forth a gooey black Jurassic gusher, and the gusher began the bonanza that triggered the land rush that launched the age of petroleum.

(Continue reading the opinion essay on Wired’s page here.)