Climate: Large scale carbon-capture tried in Illinois

There are about 150 carbon-sequestration projects under way across the U.S.

Ethanol byproducts to be pumped deep into a sandstone formation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Carbon dioxide byproducts from an Archer Daniels Midland Company ethanol plant will be injected 7,000 feet deep into an Illinois sandstone formation in the first million-ton carbon sequestration demonstration in the U.S.

Although geo-engineering is not without controversy, top administration officials say geologic storage of CO2 could be an important part of climate mitigation strategies.

The CO2 will be captured during the ethanol fermentation process and compressed into a dense liquid for permanent storage beneath several layers of shale that are dense enough to cap the greenhouse gas. There are more than 100 carbon sequestration project at some stage of development, but the Illinois effort.

“Establishing long-term, environmentally safe and secure underground CO2 storage is a critical component in achieving successful commercial deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage technology,” said Chuck McConnell, an executive with the Department of Energy’s office of fossil energy. “This injection test project by the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium … are helping confirm the great potential and viability of permanent geologic storage as an important option in climate change mitigation strategies.”

The Mt. Simon Sandstone is the thickest and most widespread saline reservoir in the Illinois Basin, which covers two-thirds of Illinois and reaches into western Indiana and western Kentucky. The estimated CO2 storage capacity of the Mt. Simon is 11 to 151 billion metric tons.

The regional midwestern group is one of seven  partnerships created by the Department of Energy to advance technologies nationwide for capturing and permanently storing greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.

“We are poised to reap the economic and environmental benefits that this public-private partnership has produced,” said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. “This successful project gives Illinois a competitive advantage to attract green businesses and address our climate change responsibilities.”

Experts say the lower Mt. Simon Sandstone formation has the necessary geological characteristics to be an excellent injection target for safe and effective storage of CO2. The $96 million Illinois Basin – Decatur Project was funded in 2007 and now marks the beginning of the injection of 1 million metric tons of CO2 over the next three years.

The Illinois State Geological Survey is managing the project, which is permitted under requirements of both the Illinois and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies as the first large demonstration-scale injection of CO2 from a biofuel production facility anywhere in the U.S.


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5 Responses

  1. I applaud the effort to control CO2 emissions Im just curious about the holding capabilities of sandstone because it is so porous. There seems to be all these crazy ideas about what to do about CO2 and global warming such as painting mountain tops white and storing carbon underground. I think we should look at more practical things. We all know that the Earth’s ancient atmosphere was made up of a large portion CO2 from the molten days and converted by plants into Oxygen. How about we do simple things such as reverse engineer vacant mini-malls into parks, encourage and even farm on a large scale algae in the ocean ( a good place to start would be by cleaning up the island of plastic in the pacific and farm in that area ) which also could be harvested and used as a bio-fuel, locally plant tree’s and have controlled burns to get the beetle-killed forests back into production, and move away from fossil fuels while we continue to develop better renewable resources for energy. I think we are looking to hard for some kind of 21st century solution to the problem while nature holds the key.

    • I think the fact that sandstone is porous is what makes it able to hold CO2, and it’s capped by impermeable rock that supposedly will trap the CO2 for … not sure how long. Forever? What happens if it releases all at once?

      Your ideas are good and they can all help. People have talked about fertilizing ocean algae with iron oxides to stimulate growth and thereby absorption of CO2, but geo-engineering on a large scale surely will have other unintended consequences.

      Reducing CO2 emissions should remain the main goal.

      Back to the Illinois project: In this case, it’s designed to sequester the carbon from a very specific process – the production of ethanol. On a site-specific basis, targeted in this way, it’s probably not the worst idea in the world, but to me it still feels like sweeping the CO2 under the rug.

      • I definitely feel like its avoiding the problem…

      • The only way we will learn what will work is to try out ideas. The paper noted this was site specific but it will demonstrate a concept of trapping CO2 underground. If we just worry about unproven problems we learn nothing.

        I agree that finding ways to avoid the generation and release of CO2 is preferred but I do not believe this approach is sufficient in the short term.

        I support research of any idea that is judged practical so we can build up an inventory of possible solutions. I accept that ‘judged practical’ is a loose expression but I am trying to say look carefully at ideas and apply careful judgement and then experiment..

  2. Bob- I was curious about this in Colorado, because in SW Colorado we “mine” CO2 and sell it. So I was reverse engineering and thinking if it’s below ground and we need to dig to get it out, the same logic might mean we could stick it below ground and it would stay there.. (any geologists, please correct me).

    So I found this on the web…looks interesting.

    Actually, it says

    “One option that the Partnership has examined is the viability of supplanting the CO2 currently produced from natural CO2 reservoirs (used for improved oil recovery and enhanced coalbed methane applications) with anthropogenic power plant CO2.”
    But I didn’t read the whole thing.

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