The Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC), one of seven regional partnerships created by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to advance carbon storage technologies nationwide (earlier post), has begun injecting carbon dioxide for their large-scale CO2 injection test in Decatur, Illinois. Up to 1 million metric tons of CO2 will be injected into the Mt. Simon Sandstone at a depth of about 7,000 feet over a 3-year period.
The test is part of the development phase of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program, an Office of Fossil Energy initiative launched in 2003 to determine the best approaches for capturing and permanently storing gases that can contribute to global climate change.
The CO2 is being captured from the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Ethanol Production Facility in Decatur, Illinois. A processing plant built for this project removes water from the CO2 stream and then compresses the dry CO2 to a liquid-like “supercritical” dense phase. The compressed CO2 then travels through a mile-long pipeline to the wellhead where it is injected into a deep saline formation more than a mile underground.
The Mt. Simon Sandstone is the thickest and most widespread saline reservoir in the Illinois Basin, with an estimated CO2 storage capacity of 11 to 151 billion metric tons. Analysis of data collected during the characterization phase of the project indicated that the lower Mt. Simon formation has the necessary geological characteristics to be a good injection target.
In October, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency completed its review of the injection facilities’ specifications and approved injection operations as per the terms of the Underground Injection Control Permit which was finalized in March 2011. This marks the first time a large-scale CO2 injection test in a saline formation has been approved for operation in the United States.
Baseline environmental data collection has been underway for more than a year. During and following injection, a comprehensive monitoring program will ensure that the injected CO2 is safely and permanently stored. The position of the underground CO2 plume will be tracked, and deep subsurface water, groundwater, and surface water will continually be monitored around the injection site. The monitoring program will be evaluated yearly and modified as needed.
MGSC is one of seven regional partnerships in a nationwide network that is investigating the merits of numerous carbon capture and storage approaches to determine those best suited for different regions of the country. MGSC is investigating options for the 60,000 square mile Illinois Basin, which underlies most of Illinois, southwestern Indiana, and western Kentucky. Emissions in this area exceed 265 million metric tonnes of CO2 yearly, mostly attributed to the region’s 126 coal-fired power plants.
DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) manages the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership program.