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University of Texas to Begin First Long-Term Underground CO2 Storage Test in US

Utco2
The test will demonstrate CO2 storage in the Tuscaloosa-Woodbine geologic system that stretches from Texas to Florida. Injection will occur near the Cranfield oil field. Click to enlarge.

The Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin has received a 10-year, $38 million subcontract to conduct the first intensively monitored, long-term project in the US to study the feasibility of injecting a large volume of carbon dioxide for underground storage.

The project is a phase III research program of the Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB), funded by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) of the US Department of Energy (DOE), and managed by Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) of Norcross, Ga. Denbury Resources Inc. of Plano, Texas, will host and support in-kind the Bureau of Economic Geology-led field project.

The bureau’s project will study the feasibility of injecting large volumes of CO2 at high rates into deep brine reservoirs. The project has been designed to develop best practices for future large-volume injections by gathering a greater variety of subsurface data than any previous experiments. Key issues include estimating the CO2 storage capacity of brine reservoirs, understanding the effects of injection pressure and developing methods for documenting retention of CO2 in the injection zone.

The SECARB partnership will demonstrate CO2 injection rate and storage capacity in the Tuscaloosa-Woodbine geologic system that stretches from Texas to Florida. The region has the potential to store more than 200 billion tons of CO2 from major point sources in the region, equal to about 33 years of US CO2 emissions overall at present rates.

Beginning this fall, the project will inject CO2 at the rate of one million tons per year, for up to 1.5 years, into brine up to 10,000 feet below the land surface near the Cranfield oil field about 15 miles east of Natchez, Miss. Experimental equipment will measure the ability of the subsurface to accept and retain CO2. The study will be supported by Denbury Resources’ CO2 enhanced oil recovery operations at Cranfield. Denbury Resources will supply CO2 from its Jackson Dome.

The bureau’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center, an industry-academic partnership, has been developing expertise to design and conduct carbon sequestration tests since 1998. Gulf Coast Carbon Center sponsors include KinderMorgan, BP, Chevron, Praxair, NRG, Entergy, Schlumberger, Marathon Oil Corporation, Shell, Luminant, Lower Colorado River Authority, Austin Energy and the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin.

The project will involve 20 research partners worldwide, including the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Schlumberger, Advanced Resources International, Southern Company and four national labs.

For the past two years, the Bureau of Economic Geology has led Texas’ effort to win the $1.5 billion clean coal project known as FutureGen. FutureGen involves the kind of large scale CO2 sequestration that would follow closely on the heels of the Cranfield injection project. A final announcement for FutureGen is expected sometime late in 2007.

Resources

  • Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB) presentation

Comments

Waste manager

There we go. Should we clap or cry...?

Rafael Seidl

If CO2 sequestration works as intended, there will be substantial pressure to apply it to coal- and gas-powered power plants. The cost overheads will sharply increase electricity costs, leading to calls for a revival of nuclear energy as well as calls for more renewables - including the option of intensive algaculture based on recycling the carbon exactly once.

To the extent that sequestation underlines the value of conservation, success in this project would be a good thing. To the the extent it allows Big Coal and others to continue with business as usual, it's a bad thing. There is no better method of sequestration than leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Neil

The last number I saw for CCS was in the neighbourhood of 3 cents/kwh. Less, if you use it for EOR. Despite my intense dislike of coal, I can't see it being left in the ground anytime soon. This had better work.

Matthew

The cost overheads will sharply increase electricity costs, leading to calls for a revival of nuclear energy [...]

God knows we need to get nuclear power back on the scene ASAP if we want to get serious about controlling greenhouse emissions. If this is what it takes, then sequester away!

j.william

anyone know how much energy (read: carbon) is required to inject one ton of carbon underground?

[yes I realize carbon doesn't equal energy]

JMartin

If sequestration is mandated, the cost of coal produced electricity will go up. That will be more incentive to move to renewables (as well as neuclear). I don't favor neuclear, but at least the market will shift some priorities.

Aussie

I suspect the trial will give partial results and somebody will announce that it proves clean coal works. Of course they also need to get the in-plant capture right as well. Either way Big Coal will say there is no longer any need to ease back.

Treehugger

Operationnal cost of CCS is probably low but investments are huge. You have to build an infrastructure that is equivalent to the oil industry one. So Nuclear will be competitive for sure. Also keep in mind that CCS will consume 10% of the energy produced by the power simply to separate th CO2, the transport and sequestration will be on top ofthis. Cleaning coal will no longer makes it a cheap energy. But the answer is : improve efficiency of systems, it will reduces america need for fossil energy much more than renewables can produce in the next 25years.

Henrik

In Denmark they have been running a small pilot project with CO2 sequestration and underground injection. The experience is that the energy used for this extra process is about 20% of all the energy meaning you need to burn 25% more coal to produce the same amount of heat and electricity for end consumption. This process removes 90% off all the CO2 while 10% escapes to the atmosphere. The project is currently being expanded on a larger facility.

We need to develop this technology ASAP and the major CO2 emitters should pay for it and simply raise their own prices on electricity, heat, cement etc to pay their extra cost. It is unfair competition that the polluters do not pay the full cost to clean up. In the long run we could build a global infrastructure of CO2 pipelines from every major CO2 producer and pump it to suited places for CO2 injection. Ethanol factories should also capture their CO2 and pump it into this system. However, because their CO2 is taken from the atmosphere they should be paid to deliver the CO2 instead of paying to get rid of it. And those who should pay for that should be the many small emitters where it does not pay to build an infrastructure to capture and pipe the CO2. If such a system is build large enough in a hundred years from now we could use it to regulate the long-term global temperature simply by pumping CO2 in or out of the atmosphere. However, for now it is just about getting experience with how to build this technology in the least costly way.

Brandon Fouts

For every carbon, 2 oxygen, so how long before loss of oxygen is a problem?

How much does car pooling save? How about if everyone carpooled (or rode public transit) at least twice a week? And you can start this very week. get serious.

Rafael Seidl

@ Brandon Fouts -

fair point, but consider that ~21% of the entire atmosphere (by volume) is oxygen. You could dig up all of the coal in the world and sequester all of the resulting CO2 and that concentration would barely budge. Sequestration is not going to suffocate anyone.

Stan Peterson

Mass transit of the 1870's variety is less efficient for moving people with actual load factors, than the private auto in all but rush hour situations where the load factor increasescan increase over 17 passenngers per vehicle for the entire route.

That was documented only this month in an article published on these GCC pages.

And that is using the most efficient form of transit, busses; masive heavy rail equipment carrying people to locations that they don't want to go to, but are merely nearer their true destination, is even more inefficent in moving people from A to B. Even if when heavily loaded, they do efficently move people from A' to B' on their restricted inflexible routes. In today's decentralized world there are few destinations that sought by a great many people.

Stan Peterson

Sequestration is a process that is neither good nor bad intrinsically. Texas would seem to have lots of oil fields that would benefit form CO2 injection. And CO2 sequestered in such a situation is more economic than otherwise. Still sequestration is probably best done in the deep Ocean, below 1000 meters, as the IPCC recommends. Providing carbon to the deep biota can't hurt and may improve the quantity of Life in those regions of the Biota.

The question of economics of fossil electric generation versus nuclear generation is settled. Remember, It was cheaper for nuclear in the 1960's competing with pre-OPEC inflated fossil fuel prices. Nuclear was made uneconomic by interminable stalling lawsuits that interrupted the construction cycle while driving up costs.

Those concerns no longer exist; the laws that allow stalling are reformed and prevented. So the economic case is now once again the issue. In the meantime better, safer designs have been developed. Nuclear once again becomes the easy choice.

The world is already welcoming the second coming of fission nuclear power, Backlogs of building plants are at higher levels than at any time in the first blossoming of fission Nukes. All this is up from zero in only two years. And Fusion will follow-on.

You should welcome the clean Nuclear electricity as it makes the coming electric auto revolution even cleaner and a greater substitute for fossil, than it would be today. Lots of old dirty coal plants in the next decade will be relegated to occasional "peaking use" and then retired, outright. Our electrons will come from non CO2 releasing Nukes.

Brandon Fouts

Remember Enron? Nuclear Reactor high prices were not totally caused by environmental concerns - look how many got built, and some in very bad locations (can we name one Nuke that did not get started? I know at least one that didn't get finished, but again I don't know of any companies that failed, just some investors that lost investments, that is called risk, right?) And in spite of all these failures, not one builder or engineering or construction company went out of business. Did any utilities go out of business? or did they just get privatized?

Just to say that corruption on public projects seems the rule rather than the exception. Can you think of ANY large project State or Federal that doesn't end up costing 3 to 4 times budget? Even roads, and what could be simpler to estimate and construct than a road? Perhaps corruption too strong a word? Prefer inefficiency?

IF we can get Nukes built by private industry, the costs will be a lot lower, in my humble opinion. But with 6 billion people and growing I suspect demand will keep fossil fuel cost trends going up - so over priced Nukes may be OK.

PS - can anyone suggest a URL so I can understand the Carbon vs atmospheric oxygen ratio? How is it that all the carbon with twice that amount of Oxygen CO2 and the impact on atmospheric oxygen in nil?

tori skeeters

im looking forward to work hard to get in to a faboulous school like ut.......... im just now starting high school but still thats the college i want to go to. im from nacagodoces texas, but i moved to tennessee in lavergne

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Mike

This article is really good and interesting.

Account Deleted

Thanks for providing information on the bureau’s project's study feasibility on large volumes of CO2 at high rates into deep brine reservoirs.
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