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Decarbonization 4 min read

The Importance of Seismic Data in Carbon Capture and Storage Projects

Published on June 19, 2023

Seismic data support CCS project development from the early site assessment phase through to the ongoing monitoring during operation.

Carbon capture and storage in complex. SeisWare reviews 7 essential things to know about CCS

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a key strategy to reduce emissions and has gained a lot of traction in the last few years. Its goal is to collect emissions from industrial sources and store carbon dioxide (CO2) underground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere.

New to CCS? Learn more about CCS technology, CO2 storage, and CCS benefits in our ongoing series. Read our last article here.

Seismic data plays a major role in safely and effectively storing CO2. It provides extremely valuable insights into subsurface geology to help identify suitable storage sites, it allows us to monitor the movement of CO2 within reservoirs and potential leakage pathways, it is valuable in assessing induced seismicity risks, and it is essential to ensure compliance with local regulations. In this article, we explore the significance of seismic data in a blooming global CCS industry.

Geophysical Site Characterization

Seismic surveys play a fundamental role in identifying suitable storage reservoirs for CO2. These surveys provide detailed information about subsurface geology, including the structure and integrity of the geological formations that can serve as storage reservoirs. By generating and recording seismic data, seismic surveys provide geophysicists with detailed subsurface images that detail the geological structures and formations that can influence long-term storage.

The acquisition of seismic data is listed as a key step in site selection and characterization in the US Department of Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Carbon Storage Atlas.

Seismic data is being used to identify and map porous and permeable formations, such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs, saline aquifers, and deep coal seams, which are well-suited for CO2 storage. Seismic data can also be used to identify problematic features that could render a site unsuitable for long-term storage, such as faults.

CCS Storage Capacity Estimation

Seismic surveys assist in estimating the storage capacity of potential reservoirs. By analyzing seismic data, geophysicists can determine the thickness, lateral extent, and porosity of the formations. These factors, along with knowledge like fluid behavior and trapping mechanisms, enable the estimation of the total volume of CO2 that can be stored within a reservoir. Accurate storage capacity estimation is crucial for project planning, cost calculations, and ensuring the long-term viability of the CCS project.

For detailed insight into the storage potential of British Columbia, Canada, check out Canadian Discovery’s assessment of depleted gas pools and aquifers.

Reservoir Monitoring using Seismic Data

Tracking the behavior and movement of injected CO2 within the storage reservoir can also be done using seismic data. It allows operators to assess the distribution of CO2 and ensure that it remains within the intended storage zone, minimizing the risk of leakage. Seismic data helps detect any anomalies or changes in the reservoir, providing early warning signs of potential issues.

Time-lapse seismic surveys using repeated 3D surveys (also known as 4D seismic) or repeated vertical seismic profiles (VSP), are conducted periodically to observe changes in the subsurface due to CO2 injection and migration. By comparing seismic images over time, geoscientists can detect potential CO2 leakage pathways, assess the effectiveness of trapping mechanisms, and ensure the long-term containment of stored CO2. Research efforts using time-lapse data have shown seismic to be effective for mapping plume movement. For more on this, download our whitepaper with Carbon Management Canada.

Since 4D surveys take time and coordination (The Bell Creek Field Project in the Powder River Basin, in Montana, for example, collected seismic data two years apart (DOE)), technologies like conventional microseismic monitoring, distributed acoustic sensing and temperature sensing are also being employed to monitor containment.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation

Seismic surveys support risk assessment and mitigation strategies for CCS projects. They provide valuable information on the subsurface geology and allow for the identification of potential hazards or geological features that may pose risks to the storage operation. Understanding the subsurface conditions through seismic data helps in designing appropriate injection strategies, selecting suitable injection wells, and implementing mitigation measures to minimize potential risks and ensure the safe storage of CO2.

One particular hazard associated with fluid injection in induced seismicity. Passive seismic and microseismic monitoring are techniques for detecting changes in the rock associated with the injection process. Ongoing monitoring of the seismic activity around the storage site can identify any unexpected movement or changes that could indicate potential leakage pathways. By understanding and managing induced seismicity risks, operators can mitigate potential hazards and ensure the safe operation of CCS projects.

Regulatory Compliance

Seismic data is often required for regulatory compliance and permitting processes related to CCS projects. Government agencies and regulatory bodies typically require comprehensive site characterization and monitoring plans, including seismic studies, to ensure the safety and environmental integrity of the storage site. Seismic data provides critical information to support the regulatory assessment of CCS projects.


Overall, seismic data is vital for site selection, reservoir characterization, monitoring, leakage detection, risk assessment, and regulatory compliance in CCS projects. It enables informed decision-making and future CCS policy, enhances operational safety, and helps ensure the long-term effectiveness of carbon capture and sequestration efforts.

Do you have questions or topics for a future blog post? Get in touch with us!

This article is the latest in a CCS-themed series. Read our last article here.


ATLAS V – Carbon Capture and Storage in the United States: Key Results from the Carbon Storage Project Characterization and Testing Phase (CCPCTP)
Author: Carbon Storage Technology Consortium (CSTC)
Publisher: U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

 Northeast BC has Gigatonnes of Room to Grow Carbon Storage
Author & Publisher: Canadian Discovery Ltd.

 SeisWare Software Tackles Carbon Storage Data Challenges
Author(s): SeisWare International Inc. and Carbon Management Canada
Publisher: SeisWare International Inc.


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