Lombardi Research Group - Ciampino
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The city of Ciampino is located about 10km to the south-east of Rome, within the Alban Hills volcanic district.

This area was volcanically active more than 20,000 years ago, but since then there have not been any more eruptions.  At present the area is characterised by a very large caldera rim (up to 15km wide) surrounded by the slopes of what remains of the volcanic structure.

Although volcanically inactive, the Alban Hills area is characterised by magma at depth, a very high geothermal gradient, faults and related weak earthquakes, and the production and release at surface of large volumes of carbon dioxide gas. 

Of particular importance is the fact that CO2 gas is even released at surface within heavily populated areas, such as the small cities of Ciampino, Marino, and Ardea.

As such, numerous studies have been conducted in this area to understand the risk of these gas releases and to safeguard the local population

We first started research in the Alban Hills area in the late 1980’s when the area was being studied for its geothermal energy potential. We conducted soil gas surveys in the area and linked gas emanation points with fault systems and elevated heat flow.

In 1997 thousands of weak earthquakes beneath the Alban Hills caused the release of a large volume of CO2 gas and the death of 10 cows by asphyxiation. Despite the high population density in this area there were fortunately no human casualties. Understandably, however, there was concern and thus the Region of Lazio funded a number of studies by our group into the potential risk of gas release in this area.  Soil gas surveys throughout the Ciampino-Marino area highlighted areas of elevated CO2 release, and these results were used within a GIS software package to define risk maps and building zoning criteria for the city. 

Our work at Ciampino continued within the EC-funded "Nascent" project, where we extended our soil gas mapping of the area and also began psychological and social studies on how the local inhabitants deal with the occurrence of gas release within their city.  Interestingly, most inhabitants were far more concerned with the noise and pollution associated with the local airport (which services Rome) than with the local gas release phenomenon.

We continued our psycho-social studies within CO2GeoNet, an EC-funded "Network of Excellence" on CO2 geological storage.  Studies were conducted of school children during this phase of the work, and communication and dissemination activities were undertaken to best inform the public regarding the emanations and precautions that could be made. In particular it was stressed that because CO2 is denser than air, simple precautions include not using basements and not sleeping on the first floor.

Most recently we have deployed a number of our in-house developed GasPro sensors in the soil in both leaking and non-leaking areas to study how soil conditions can influence CO2 accumulation and eventual migration to the atmosphere.