Scientists have completed work on what they are calling the world’s first standards for storing carbon dioxide underground.

The Regina-based International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide and the Canadian Standards Association have been working on the guidelines since 2009.

Centre CEO Carmen Dybwad says the standards outline the risks companies should consider before burying CO2, including an area’s geology and where the greenhouse gas could flow through a fault underground.

“It’s nice to be able to have, if you will, a guide, a standard to go through and say, ‘Yes, we have made sure that we’ve looked at everything. We’ve looked at the issue of subsurface trespass. We’ve looked at the issue of fractures. We’ve looked at the possibility of setting a microseismic event,’” said Dybwad.

“You know — check, check, check, check, check.”

The standards are guidelines only and don’t specifically say how deep or where carbon should be stored.

Dybwad likened it to cooking a chicken. She said the chicken has to reach a specific internal temperature to be safe to eat, but that can be done in many ways such as roasting or barbecuing.

The standards would not be mandatory. However, Dybwad believes companies will want to follow the guidelines to show the public CO2 is being stored in a safe manner.

The standards are to be submitted to the International Standardization Organization by the end of the year. The goal is to have them used as a basis for international carbon capture.

The process injects CO2 deep into a porous rock formation to prevent the emission from things such as power plants and refineries from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

But the technology has been panned as unproven and critics say not enough is known about the consequences.

Scientists estimate carbon capture can be used to reduce emissions from industrial plants by 85 to 95 per cent.

Dybwad says the standards should help reassure people of the technology’s validity.

“Should we wean ourselves off (fossil fuels)? Yes,” she said.

“What’s going to be necessary is a whole change in energy systems, but that’s not happening overnight. Matter of fact, nobody sees that realistically happening for the next 40 years … so the bottom line is we’re going to be using fossil fuels for a long time.

“Energy efficiency? Absolutely brilliant. Need to do that too. (We) need to start using more renewables,” she said.

“But for those fossil fuels that are going to be burned, this is the only game in town.”