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Million Tons of CO2 Will Be Injected Under Illinois
WASHINGTON, DC, December 20, 2007 (ENS) - Millions of tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide will be injected deep underground for storage expected to last for thousands of years in a series of projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in all regions of the country. Generated by burning fossil fuels, if allowed to escape into the atmosphere, the gas will intensify global warming.

The Energy Department plans to invest $197 million over 10 years for the seven projects, subject to annual appropriations from Congress. Their estimated value, including partnership cost share, is $318 million.

On Tuesday, the Energy Department awarded $66.7 million to the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium for a large-scale carbon sequestration project. The partnership, led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, will conduct tests in the Illinois Basin.

The partnership will inject one million tons of carbon dioxide, CO2, into one of the thickest portions of the Mount Simon Formation, a saline aquirfer which underlies Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and portions of Ohio.

Scientists will test how the diversity of the formation can increase the effectiveness of storage. They will attempt to demonstrate that massive seals can contain the gas for millennia.

The consortium plans to drill an injection well and then inject about 1,000 tons per day of carbon dioxide into the Mt. Simon sandstone at a point that lies about a mile below the surface of the Earth.

Workers on an earlier phase of the Illinois carbon storage project (Photo courtesy ISGS)

Crews will inject CO2 for three years before closing the injection site and monitoring and modeling the injected gas to determine the effectiveness of the storage reservoir.

The consortium will work with the Archer Daniels Midland company to demonstrate the entire CO2 injection process - pre-injection characterization, injection process monitoring, and post-injection monitoring - at large volumes to determine the ability of different geologic settings to permanently store CO2.

Archer Daniels Midland's ethanol plant in Decatur, Ilinois will serve as the source of CO2 for the project. The Energy Department will fund the dehydration, compression, short pipeline, and related facility costs to deliver the CO2 to the injection wellhead.

Announced Tuesday, the award to the consortium is the fourth of seven awards in the current phase of the Energy Department's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program.

In October, the first three large volume carbon sequestration projects were awarded. These partnerships will conduct large volume tests for the storage of one million or more tons of carbon dioxide in deep saline reservoirs.

The Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, will conduct geologic CO2 storage projects in the Alberta and Williston Basins. The Energy Department will pay $67 million of this $135.5 million cost.

The CO2 for this project will come from a post-combustion capture facility at a coal-fired power plant in the region.

A second test will be conducted in northwestern Alberta, Canada to demonstrate the co-sequestration of CO2 and hydrogen sulfide from a large gas-processing plant into a deep saline formation.

In the southeastern part of the country, the Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, led by Southern States Energy Board, will demonstrate CO2 storage in the lower Tuscaloosa Formation Massive Sand Unit.

This geologic formation stretches from Texas to Florida and has the potential to store more than 200 years of CO2 emissions from major point sources in the region.

The partnership will inject CO2 at two locations to assess different CO2 streams. Injection of several million tons of CO2 from a natural deposit is expected to begin in late 2008.

The project will then conduct a second injection into the formation using CO2 captured from a coal-fired power plant in the region. The Energy Department will pay $64.9 million of this $93.6 million project.

In the southwestern part of the country, the Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration, coordinated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, will inject several million tons of CO2 into the Entrada Sandstone Formation. This geologic formation stretches from Colorado to Wyoming.

The project will test the limits of injection and demonstrate the integrity of the cap rock to trap the gas.

The information will be used to evaluate locations throughout the region where future power plants are being considered. The Energy Department will pay $65.4 million of this $88.8 million project.

This 10 year carbon storage initiative, launched by DOE in 2003, forms what the agency calls "the centerpiece of national efforts to develop the infrastructure and knowledge base needed to place carbon sequestration technologies on the path to commercialization."

The seven regional partnerships include more than 350 state agencies, universities, and private companies within 41 states, two Indian nations, and four Canadian provinces.

During the first phase of the program, seven partnerships characterized the potential for CO2 storage in deep oil, gas, coal, and saline bearing formations.

When Phase I ended in 2005, the partnerships had identified more than 3,000 billion metric tons of potential storage capacity in promising sites, the Energy Department said, adding, "This has the potential to represent more than 1,000 years of storage capacity from point sources in North America."

In the program's second phase, the partnerships conducted small-scale geologic and terrestrial sequestration projects.

In this, the third phase, the partnerships will attempt to validate that the capture, transportation, injection, and long term storage of over one million tons of carbon dioxide can be done safely, permanently, and economically.

Advancing carbon sequestration is a component of the Bush administration's pursuit of clean coal technology, designed to meet President George W. Bush's stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity 18 percent by 2012.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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