Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Gregory V. Lowry

Second Advisor

Kelvin Gregory


Geologic carbon storage (GCS) is a crucial part of a proposed mitigation strategy to reduce the anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. During this process, CO2 is injected as super critical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) in confined deep subsurface storage units, such as saline aquifers and depleted oil reservoirs. The deposition of vast amounts of CO2 in subsurface geologic formations may ultimately lead to CO2 leakage into overlying freshwater aquifers. Introduction of CO2 into these subsurface environments will greatly increase the CO2 concentration and will create CO2 concentration gradients that drive changes in the microbial communities present. While it is expected that altered microbial communities will impact the biogeochemistry of the subsurface, there is no information available on how CO2 gradients will impact these communities. The overarching goal of this dissertation is to understand how CO2 exposure will impact subsurface microbial communities at temperature and pressure that are relevant to GCS and CO2 leakage scenarios. To meet this goal, unfiltered, aqueous samples from a deep saline aquifer, a depleted oil reservoir, and a fresh water aquifer were exposed to varied concentrations of CO2 at reservoir pressure and temperature. The microbial ecology of the samples was examined using molecular, DNA-based techniques. The results from these studies were also compared across the sites to determine any existing trends. Results reveal that increasing CO2 leads to decreased DNA concentrations regardless of the site, suggesting that microbial processes will be significantly hindered or absent nearest the CO2 injection/leakage plume where CO2 concentrations are highest. At CO2 exposures expected downgradient from the CO2 plume, selected microorganisms emerged as dominant in the CO2 exposed conditions. Results suggest that the altered microbial community was site specific and highly dependent on pH. The site-dependent results suggests no ability to predict the emerging dominant species for other CO2exposed environments. This body of work improves the understanding of how a subsurface microbial community may respond to conditions expected from geologic carbon storage and CO2 leakage. This is the first step for understanding how a CO2 altered microbial community may impact injectivity, permanence of stored CO2, and subsurface water quality. .