Features - March 2013

On Tenth Anniversary of NETL Program, Regional Partnerships Demonstrate Clear Path to CO2 Reduction

What is a Greenhouse Gas? Why is it important? And how can we reduce it?

When gases trap radiant heat from the sun in Earth’s atmosphere, they are called greenhouse gases. There are many such gases, but carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most prevalent. CO2 is a part of everyday life on this planet. It is used by plants during photosynthesis, expelled into the atmosphere during a volcanic eruption, produced as the result of decaying organic matter, and emmited during the burning of fossils fuels and other industrial activities.

However, just like everything else, too much CO2 can be bad. Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have increased significantly above pre-industrial revolution levels and scientists are concerned that the rising atmospheric levels of various greenhouse gases could be a contributing factor to global climate change. So the question is: how can we reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere?
The answer is carbon capture and storage.

While some captured CO2 will be stored underground, there is also a tremendous opportunity to reuse much of it in the commercial market.
While some captured CO2 will be stored underground, there is also a tremendous opportunity to reuse much of it in the commercial market.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), begins when CO2 is captured at the source such as a power, gas processing or ethanol plant. It is then compressed, transported via pipeline or other means, and injected deep into subsurface rock formations. There are many different types of storage. The graphic below shows how CO2 can be injected into depleted oil producing formations to produce additional oil through a process called enhanced oil recovery (EOR); into unmineable coal seams to produce natural gas in a process called enhanced coalbed methane (ECBM); and into deep saline formations for storage over thousands of years.

Since 1998, the Department of Energy (DOE) through the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has been researching how to make CCS a reality. In 2003, the conception of a regional network of organizations focusing on this research throughout the United States was established, and the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSP) Initiative began. The seven partnerships have been devoted to the development and deployment of viable carbon storage technologies throughout the United States.

Today, the RCSP comprises more than 400 organizations in 43 states and four Canadian provinces, the regional partnerships are testing CO2 storage potential and investigating best practices for CO2 storage in a variety of storage types and geologic formations.

Over the past 10 years, the RCSP Initiative has implemented a three phase approach (1) Characterization, (2) Validation and (3) Development and it celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2013.

In the first two phases, scientists characterized each region’s geologic and terrestrial storage potential, and then conducted small-scale field projects to validate that storage could be conducted safely. Now the RCSPs are conducting large-scale field projects, demonstrating the capability to safely store and account for the injection of one million metric tons of CO2 in various storage types and formations. These field projects will provide the foundation including best practices for future commercial scale projects.

The partnerships provide an annual update of these efforts (and the science behind them) via the Carbon Utilization and Storage Atlas, currently in its fourth edition. The data used to create the resource estimates is available in interactive form on the National Carbon Sequestration Database and Geographic Information System (NATCARB) website.

Recycling Carbon to Create Prosperity

Commercialized CCS will employ geologists, engineers, scientists, and trained technicians. Photo Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Commercialized CCS will employ geologists, engineers, scientists, and trained technicians. Photo Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

An alternative to simple storage is to use the CO2 to recover additional oil and natural gas reserves as it is injected into depleted oil and gas fields. The additional recovery of oil reserves is called enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and it’s been increasing the productivity of oil wells in Texas since the early 1970s. Captured CO2 can also be used to develop useful chemicals or other commercial products. Both technologies encourage economic growth while having a net positive influence on carbon emissions.

Large Scale Demonstrations Advance Solutions toward Commercial Markets

As previously mentioned, the RCSPs are implementing large-scale field projects that involve the injection of one million metric tons or more of CO2 into regionally significant geologic formations. These large-scale field projects are a vital step in advancing these technologies to the marketplace and some large-scale field projects have already made significant contributions to demonstrating the viability of this technology as a solution to removing CO2 from the atmosphere

As of March 2013, four NETL-managed large-scale field projects are underway with two more scheduled before of the end of the calendar year.

Map of the Illinois Basin Decatur Projects Plant Site and operation. A) Dehydration/Compression Facility, B) Pipeline Route, C) Injection Well, D) Verification Well, E) Geophone Well.
Map of the Illinois Basin Decatur Projects Plant Site and operation. A) Dehydration/Compression Facility, B) Pipeline Route, C) Injection Well, D) Verification Well, E) Geophone Well.

Illinois Basin Decatur Project (Decatur, Ill. ): This large-scale CCS field project is being conducted by the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC). Led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, the project is injecting one million metric tons of CO2 over three years into the lower Mt. Simon Sandstone at a depth of 7,000 feet. The CO2 is captured from an ethanol production plant at the Archer Daniels Midland Company’s agricultural-products processing complex in Decatur, Ill. Throughout the project, the injected CO2 is being monitored using systems developed by Schlumberger Carbon Services to ensure storage permanence. The research findings and lessons learned are proving highly valuable for establishing best practices for future CO2-injection projects. The project has been in operation since November 2011 and has already injected 422,000 metric tons of CO2.

Niagaran Reef structures as they appear in the subsurface. These structures stretch across the northern portion of Michigan and serve as traps for oil and gas.
Niagaran Reef structures as they appear in the subsurface. These structures stretch across the northern portion of Michigan and serve as traps for oil and gas.

Michigan Basin Project (Gaylord, Michigan): This large-scale CCS project is being conducted by the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP). Led by Battelle, the project is injecting and monitoring 1 million metric tons of CO2 into multiple Niagaran pinnacle reefs that are at various life-cycle stages over 4 years. These pinnacle reefs are prevalent in the Michigan Basin as part of the northern Niagaran pinnacle reef trend and injection will be at a depth of about 6,000 feet. The source of CO2 for this project is from a natural gas processing plant. MRCSP will test and monitor before, during and after injection to understand the behavior and capacity of individual reefs. The project began monitoring the injection of CO2 during the latter part of February 2013 and will initiate injection into a second reef type in early April 2013.

Computer generated image of Cranfield Dome generated from seismic data, with project area along the eastern flank of the field (box).
Computer generated image of Cranfield Dome generated from seismic data, with project area along the eastern flank of the field (box).

Cranfield (Early) Project (Natchez, MS): This large-scale CCS field project was the first phase III project to begin CO2 injection operations and is being conducted by the Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB). Led by the Southern States Energy Board, the project has injected over 3.4 million metric tons of CO2 over three and a half years into the saltwater bearing portion of an oil field (Cranfield) within the Tuscaloosa Sandstone at a depth of about 10,500 feet. The naturally occurring CO2 for the Cranfield project is sourced via CO2 pipeline from the Jackson Dome near Jackson, Mississippi, operated by Denbury Resources. The Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC), Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin has been doing testing and monitoring before and during the injection. This project has an extensive monitoring, verification and accounting plan to make sure the CO2 stays where it should.

Schematic diagram of the Anthropogenic Test, with CO2 captured at the power plant, then transported via pipeline and injected into the Paluxy Sandstone formation.
Schematic diagram of the Anthropogenic Test, with CO2captured at the power plant, then transported via pipeline and injected into the Paluxy Sandstone formation.

Citronelle (Anthropogenic) Project (Citronelle, AL): This large-scale CCS field project is the second project conducted by SECARB along with the Electric Power Research Institute, Southern Company, Alabama Power Company, Advanced Resources International Inc. , and other experts. The project is injecting 250,000 metric tons of CO2 over two years into the Paluxy Formation within an oilfield called Citronelle Dome, operated by Denbury Resources. The CO2 for this test is from Alabama Power’s Barry Electric Generating Plant, where Mitsubishi Heavy Industries operates a CO2 capture facility to produce highly pure CO2. The CO2 is being injected into the Paluxy Formation, a major reservoir containing water too salty to drink that occurs at a depth of 9,400 feet. The project has been in operation since August 2012 and has already injected more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2. This project is important because it is a fully integrated CCS project; CO2 from an active coal-fired power plant is captured, transported and injected.

Future Projects

Bell Creek Field showing location of the CO2 source and the pipeline from the source to the field.
Bell Creek Field showing location of the CO2 source and the pipeline from the source to the field.

Bell Creek Field Project (Bell Creek, MT): This large-scale CCS field project is being conducted by the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership (PCOR). Led by the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), the project is monitoring the injection of at least one million metric tons of CO2 over two years into Bell Creek Oilfield, which is owned and operated by Denbury Resources Inc. The CO2 for this test is sourced from ConocoPhillips’ Lost Cabin natural gas processing plant located in Wyoming, and is a byproduct from natural gas processing. It’s being transported through a newly constructed 232-mile long, 20-inch diameter pipeline to Belle Creek Oilfield, where it will be injected into the Muddy Sandstone, over 4,000 feet deep. This project is also conducting an extensive monitoring plan including gathering information from over 70 wells throughout the field to understand the behavior of CO2. Injection is expected to start in April 2013.

Location of the Farnsworth Unit in Northern Texas, where CO2 will be injected.
Location of the Farnsworth Unit in Northern Texas, where CO2 will be injected.

Farnsworth Unit Field Project (Farnsworth, TX): This large-scale field project is being conducted by the Southwest Regional Partnership (SWP). Led by the New Mexico Tech, SWP has teamed up with Chaparral Energy of Oklahoma City to conduct a large-scale field project in Chaparral’s Farnsworth Unit in the Texas panhandle. The project will begin in autumn 2013 and will monitor the injection of one million metric tons of CO2 over five years into the Morrow Sandstone of the Farnsworth Unit Field at a depth of approximately 7,700 ft. The CO2 for this test is sourced from a fertilizer plant (Agrium in Borger, Texas) and ethanol plant (Arkalon Energy in Liberal, Kansas).

Kevin Dome project, located in Northwestern Montana, showing the CO2 producing wells and injection wells.
Kevin Dome project, located in Northwestern Montana, showing the CO2 producing wells and injection wells.

Kevin Dome Project (Toole County, MT): This large-scale field project is being conducted by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (Big Sky). Led by Montana State University, the project is working on producing CO2 from a natural source (Duperow Formation) from the top of Kevin Dome (Pronounced Kee-vin) and re-injecting it at a different location as part of a strategy to demonstrate the capability to monitor a potential regional CO2 storage hub. The project is anticipated to start in 2014 and will monitor the injection of one million metric tons of CO2 over four years into a structurally lower section of the Duperow, with injection levels between 4,000 and 4,500 feet.

NETL shares its findings through partnerships and publications, such as the U.S. 2012 Carbon Utilization and Storage Atlas.
NETL shares its findings through partnerships and publications, such as the U.S. 2012 Carbon Utilization and Storage Atlas.

These large-scale field projects are working to demonstrate that CO2 storage sites have the potential to store large-volumes of CO2 emissions safely, permanently, and economically. Also, some projects are demonstrating CO2 can be stored economically and efficiently, and in some instances be utilized to increase oil yields or make essential every day chemicals. One thing is for sure, as the results of these integrated field projects come in, NETL will continue to share them through our partnerships and publications, while working toward a technical solution to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere while ensuring a robust and secure energy future.

 

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