WASHINGTON, DC - Tapping into rock formations at sites thousands of feet deep, a government-industry team is using seismic testing to help determine whether those sites can serve as reservoirs to safely store carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas.
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory is sponsoring the tests in a program to develop carbon sequestration technology as part of the President's Global Climate Change Initiative. The initiative is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas intensity?the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output?by 18 percent by 2012.
"The seismic testing in the Appalachian Basin helps to transfer carbon sequestration technology from the laboratory to the field," said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Jeffrey Jarrett. "The tests move the Nation's carbon sequestration program one step closer to determining the technologies, permitting, and infrastructure best suited in each region of the country for permanently storing greenhouse gases and addressing global climate change."
Carbon sequestration uses a variety of methods to remove greenhouse gases, especially CO2, from power plant emissions or the air itself, and securely store those gases in geologic formations, soils and vegetation, or in other environmentally safe forms. The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy is pursuing safe, effective, low-cost carbon sequestration options through its multifaceted Carbon Sequestration Program.
The seismic testing was recently conducted by the Department of Energy?sponsored Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership at FirstEnergy Corp's R.E. Burger plant in Shadyside, Ohio, and in nearby areas. An earlier phase of the project determined that the sandstone and limestone rock formations around the plant held potential for serving as a repository for CO2. Researchers have estimated that the formations may have the capacity to store CO2 for more than 200 years.
In the new phase of the project, survey crews employed truck-mounted seismic equipment to generate pulses in the ground around the Burger plant. The seismic signal from the vibrations is used to create images of the subsurface area and determine its suitability for injecting CO2.
|The DOE-sponsored Midwest Regional Carbon Seq- uestration Partnership is using so-called "thumper trucks" to generate vibrations in the ground that can be used to create images of the subsurface. The goal is to locate a test site in the Appalachian Basin where CO2 can be safely sequestered in a geologic formation below the ground.
The surveys are focused on the area adjacent to the Burger plant but extending about 10 miles in length, including areas directly across the Ohio River near Moundsville, WV. Three shorter routes, about a mile long along the Ohio River, are also being surveyed. All of this survey data is expected to provide ?quasi three-dimensional? data at much lower cost than a full three-dimensional survey.
Based on the survey results, the partnership may begin the permitting process to drill a well into a brine field beneath the Burger plant property. The test well will reach a depth of 4,000 to 7,000 feet—well below drinking water supplies, which are about 100 feet deep in this region. If further testing determines it can be done safely, the partnership hopes to eventually inject CO2 into the brine field to test the feasibility of geologic sequestration in this type of setting.
The Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership is one of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships created by the Energy Department in 2002. The partnership program exists so that each partnership can assess the CO2 sequestration option best suited to its specific region. Currently, the seven regional partnerships include more than 300 organizations within 40 states, three Indian nations, and four Canadian provinces.
Battelle of Columbus, Ohio, leads the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which includes 38 partners in seven states: Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In addition to this geologic project, the Battelle-led partnership will later conduct two additional geologic and three terrestrial projects throughout its multistate region.