Lombardi Research Group - Panarea Island
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Panarea Island

Panarea Island

Panarea is one of seven volcanic islands (the “Aeolian Islands”) that are located close to the northern shore of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea.

Due to the presence of deep faults, high heat flow, and magma at depth there is a strong emission of deep-origin fluids at the surface, both inland and from the seafloor.

Off Panarea Island these emissions are manifest as gas leaks that release large volumes of bubbles (consisting primarily of CO2) into the overlying water column.

These natural leaks interact with the marine ecosystem, modifying the habitat and altering several physical and chemical parameters (such as pH).

There is interest in this natural site, and others like it throughout the world, because it can be used to study the potential impact that may occur in the unlikely event that an offshore geological CO2 reservoir leaks and to develop marine monitoring techniques that can be used to ensure the safety of such storage sites.

We first started to work at the Panarea site in 2005, and have conducted research there with our partners within five different EC-funded projects (CO2GeoNet, CO2ReMoVe, PaCO2, RISCS, and ECO2).

Within these projects we have studied the geology and structural setting of the area, the geochemistry of the emitted fluids (water and gas), the effects of these fluids on the seawater, ecosystem, and marine biota, and have developed and tested innovative monitoring tools.

Within RISCS we measureda wide variety of parameters within the water column along a 700 m long transect, together with our partners at OGS (Trieste, Italy).

This work was repeated once during each of the four seasons to look at how gas migration behaviour and its associated impact may change as a function of the changing physical conditions (currents, water column stratification, temperature, etc.).

These results showed how dynamic the system is and how quickly the leakage signal can be diluted, with CO2 and associated anomalies being highest and most well defined during the summer campaign when the water column stratification was most stable.

During the ECO2 project we mapped gas bubble and dissolved gas flux rates from the sea floor and conducted gas bubble experiments, again together with OGS. In particular, the experiments involved creating individual bubbles at the sea floor, using the natural leaking gas, and monitoring their chemical and physical evolution as they rise through the water column. This data was combined and modelled in collaboration with Prof. Dan McGinnis at the University of Geneva.

During the various projects we have conducted extensive development work on our in-house designed and built dissolved CO2 sensors (GasPro). Initial tests conducted in CO2ReMoVe were extended within RISCS with the deployment for a 3 month period of a continuous monitoring station that collected data from 6 probes deployed in different gas leakage scenarios and transmitted this data in real time to a server at our university.

The latest generation unit has been extensively tested within ECO2, with mass deployments of 20 GasPro probes along vertical transects in the water column to monitor the spatial-temporal distribution and migration of dissolved CO2