Sally M. Benson
Sally M. Benson
GCEP Director
about the lectureship
about Halbouty

2009 Michel T. Halbouty Distinguished Lecturer

Sally M. Benson

Can Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide in Deep Geological Formations Help Solve the Global Warming Problem?

In little more than a decade, carbon dioxide (CO2) capture from point source emissions and sequestration in deep geological formations has emerged as one of the most important options for reducing CO2 emissions. Two major challenges stand in the way of realizing this potential: the high cost of capturing CO2 and gaining confidence in the capacity, safety, and permanence of sequestration in deep geological formations. Building on examples from laboratory and field based studies of multiphase flow of CO2 in porous rocks; this talk addresses the current prospects for carbon dioxide sequestration.

  • Which formations can provide safe and secure sequestration?
  • At what scale will this be practical and is this scale sufficient to significantly reduce emissions?
  • What monitoring methods can be used to provide assurance that CO2 remains trapped underground?
  • What can be done if a leak develops?
  • What are the potential impacts to groundwater resources and how can these be avoided?
  • The status of each these questions will be discussed, along with emerging research questions.

About Sally M. Benson

Sally M. Benson was appointed as Director of the Global Climate and Energy Project in January 2009 after holding the Executive Director post since March 2007.

A Professor (Research) in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering (ERE) in the School of Earth Sciences, Benson has been a member of Stanford’s faculty since 2007. Her research group in ERE investigates fundamental characteristics of carbon dioxide storage in geologic formations as a means of climate change mitigation. She teaches classes on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and “Technologies in the Greenhouse.”

Prior to joining GCEP, Benson worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), serving in a number of capacities, including Division Director for Earth Sciences, Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences, and Deputy Director for Operations.

A ground water hydrologist and reservoir engineer, Benson has conducted research to address a range of issues related to energy and the environment. For the past ten years she has studied how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and pumping it into deep underground formations for permanent sequestration. Benson was a coordinating lead author on the 2005 IPCC Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage. Her research interests also include technologies and energy systems for a low-carbon future, groundwater quality and remediation, biogeochemistry of selenium, and geotechnical instrumentation for subsurface characterization and monitoring.

Benson graduated from Barnard College with a bachelor’s degree in geology. She completed her graduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, after receiving master’s and doctoral degrees, both in materials science and mineral engineering. The author or co-author of over 160 scientific publications, Benson is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the AAAS, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Benson also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Renewal Energy Laboratory and Climate Central. She is also currently the Coordinating Lead Author for chapter on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage in the Global Energy Assessment.


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