Quantitative assessment of deep-seated CO2 leakage around CO2-rich springs with low soil CO2 efflux using end-member mixing analysis and carbon isotopes

Yeon Ju Kang, Seong Taek Yun, Soonyoung Yu, Hyun Kwon Do, Gitak Chae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined a mountainous area with two hydrochemically distinct CO2-rich springs to understand the origin, flow, and leakage of CO2, which may provide implications for precise monitoring of CO2 leakage in geological carbon storage (GCS) sites. The carbon isotopic compositions of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in CO2-rich water (δ13CDIC) and those of soil CO213CCO2) indicated a deep-seated CO2 supply to the near-surface environment in the study area. The hydrochemical difference (e.g. pH, total dissolved solids) for the two CO2-rich springs separated by 7 m, despite similar δ13CDIC and partial pressure of CO2, was considered as the result of different evolution of shallow groundwater affected by deep-seated CO2 preferentially rising along fracture zones. Electrical resistivity tomography also suggested flow through fracture zones beneath the CO2-rich springs, showing low resistivity compared to other surveyed zones. However, soil CO2 efflux was low compared to that in other natural CO2 emission sites, and in particular it was noticeably low near the CO2-rich springs, whereas δ13CCO2 was high close the CO2-rich springs. The dissolution of CO2 in the near-surface water body seemed to decrease the deep-seated CO2 leakage through the soil layer, while δ13CCO2 imprinted the source. End-member mixing analysis was performed to assess the contribution of deep-seated CO2 to the low soil CO2 efflux by assuming that atmospheric CO2 and soil CO2 (by respiration) as well as deep-seated CO2 contribute to the soil CO2 efflux. For each end-member, characteristic δ13CCO2 and CO2 concentrations were defined, and then their apportionment to soil CO2 efflux was estimated. The resultant proportion of deep-seated CO2 was up to 8.8%. Unlike the spatial distribution of high soil CO2 efflux, high proportions exceeding 3% were found around the CO2-rich springs along the east-west valley. The study results indicate that soil CO2 efflux measurement should be combined with carbon isotopic analysis in GCS sites for CO2 leakage detection because CO2 dissolution in the underground water body may blur leakage detection on the surface. The implication of this study is the need to quantitatively assess the contribution of deep-seated CO2 using the soil CO2 concentration, soil CO2 efflux, and δ13CCO2 at each measurement site.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111333
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the Korea CO 2 Storage Environmental Management (K-COSEM) Research Center that was supported by the Korea Ministry of Environment . The authors thank the researchers who participated in the field work and laboratory analysis: Joon Lee, Hyun-ji Kang, Seok Hee Kim, Dae-Han Hwang, and Seung-Wook Ha for helping collect soil gas and water samples; Chan Yeong Kim for assisting the analysis of soil gas samples; and Hyun Joo Lee and Hyun-deok Ryu for the geologic survey. We also acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive comments and suggestions to clarify and improve the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • CO-rich springs
  • Carbon isotope
  • Deep-seated CO
  • End-member mixing analysis (EMMA)
  • Soil CO efflux

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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