Carbon capture and sequestration, refers to technology attempting to prevent release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. The process is based on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources and storing it where it will not enter the atmosphere. One of these methods is to inject it into the ground. Geologists are hoping to learn a great deal about geologic carbon sequestration from injecting 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into sandstone 7,000 feet beneath Decatur, Ill. The Illinois Basin — Decatur Project began its injection, the first million-ton demonstration from an industrial source in the U.S., in November 2011. Over the next three years, the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, hopes to use innovative science and engaging outreach to evaluate the potential of carbon capture and storage techniques.
“The Illinois Basin-Decatur Project is a significant example of how science impacts society and serves as an example of how science at a local level can impact the global good,” said Sallie Greenberg, the sequestration communications coordinator for the Illinois State Geological Survey, a branch of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.
Greenberg will discuss the IBDP and the outreach efforts surrounding it in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Geologic sequestration, or underground carbon storage, is a process that injects compressed carbon dioxide into a porous rock layer, such as sandstone. The Illinois Basin, a large geologic formation underlying the state of Illinois as well as western Indiana and Kentucky, has a layer of sandstone deep beneath multiple layers of shale, which act as a cap to keep the carbon dioxide permanently trapped.
The Illinois Basin is a Paleozoic depositional and structural basin in the United States, centered in and underlying most of the state of Illinois, and extending into southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky. The basin is elongate, extending approximately 400 miles northwest-southeast, and 200 miles southwest-northeast.
Although CO2 has been injected into geological formations for various purposes, the long term storage of CO2 is a relatively new concept. In 2000, a coal-fueled synthetic natural gas plant in Beulah, North Dakota, became the world’s first coal using plant to capture and store carbon dioxide, at the Weyburn-Midale Carbon Dioxide Project.
The IBDP is located at the Archer Daniels Midland ethanol fermentation processing plant in Decatur, making it the first large-scale sequestration effort in the U.S. to use carbon from a biofuel production source. Ethanol fermentation emits nearly pure carbon dioxide. The IBDP captures the gas, compresses it to a liquid-like dense phase, and injects it into the underground sandstone at a rate of 1,000 metric tons per day.
“This is an opportunity to determine the safety and the effectiveness of this carbon capture and storage technology,” said Robert Finley, the director of the IBDP. “Because we have exceptionally favorable geology here in the Illinois Basin region to do this, testing it out at Decatur becomes a very important opportunity for us. The geology is excellent, and we have an excellent partner in Archer Daniels Midland.”
The researchers are using innovative new near-surface and deep monitoring technology to protect health and safety while keeping track of how the carbon dioxide behaves in the subsurface. In addition to the injection well, the IBDP has a 7,000-foot-deep verification well on site that allows the researchers to monitor pressure and fluid chemistry.
“It’s essentially like taking a sonogram of the earth,” Greenberg said. “Using geophysical technology allows us to create a time-lapse view of how the carbon dioxide is distributed in the sandstone reservoir.”
Public outreach is an important component of the program. The ISGS offers a variety of teacher education and professional development programs through a knowledge-sharing and capacity-building program called the Sequestration Training and Education Program. The survey has hosted a variety of national and international delegations to share knowledge gleaned from their project-based experience.
“It’s interesting to me as a geoscientist who does public engagement that the questions that the public asks are the same questions, really, that the scientists are asking,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg visits schools and communities with a tabletop model that demonstrates how sequestration works, as well as rock samples so that questioning minds can see and feel a piece of the Illinois Basin.
To date, more than 75,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide have been stored at the Decatur site, and so far the injection has gone well. The researchers see carbon capture and storage as an important part of the portfolio of energy technology for the future.
Article appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.