Scientists propose
carbon dioxide test

The goal is to find a way to manage
how the gas accumulates in the atmosphere

Star-Bulletin staff

An international group of agencies is seeking a research permit to conduct a two-week experiment injecting carbon dioxide droplets into the ocean about 4.6 miles off Nawiliwili, Kauai.

Comments must be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency within 30 days. Requests for a public hearing must be in writing and include a list of objections to granting or denying a permit. The EPA regional administrator will decide whether a public hearing will be held.

The site, outside state waters, is an EPA-designated area for dumping dredge materials.

The experiment was proposed two years ago for a location about 1.5 miles off Kona's Keahole Point on the Big Island, but it was abandoned because of controversy about its possible effect on marine animals.

Under the latest proposal, the experiment would be conducted by the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, under contract to the consortium.

Gerard Nihous, with the research center, said at a recent ocean sciences meeting here that the amount of carbon dioxide to be released would be less than previously proposed and would be spread over 10 days at half-mile depths.

The proposed experiment is part of an effort to study options for managing the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which some believe is among the causes of global warming. The long-range goal is to slow the potential "greenhouse" effect.

Injecting carbon dioxide into deep ocean waters, known as "sequestration," is one approach under study to solve the carbon dioxide problem.

Sponsors of the proposed project said 20 metric tons of liquid carbon dioxide droplets would be released in the ocean over two weeks -- an amount 15 to 200 times smaller than the documented volume emitted from the seamount Loihi's vents off the Big Island during two weeks in 1997.

The proposed project must comply with the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Essential Fish Habitat Act. Potential environmental impacts must be monitored.

However, the EPA said, "The ... experiment is expected to have minimal adverse impacts on the marine environment, including temporary short-term increases of sea-water acidity in a small portion of the proposed research zone."

The permit would be for 18 months, allowing time to arrange for research vessels and other logistics and wait out bad weather.

Sponsoring the project are the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Australia's Division of Marine Research, Canada's Office of Energy Research and Development, Japan's Global Environmental Technology Department, the Research Council of Norway and ABB Corporate Research of Switzerland.

The permit application and related documents can be reviewed during regular working hours at the EPA's Pacific Islands contact office in Honolulu, phone 541-2710; Lihue, Kauai, Public Library, 241-3222; and the EPA's Regional 9 office in San Francisco.

To comment on the application, visit the EPA's Web site -- -- or call Allan Ota at the EPA in San Francisco, 415-972-3476.

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