Drilling nears completion for the first large-scale carbon dioxide (CO2) injection well in the U.S. for CO2 sequestration, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported Tuesday. This project will be used to demonstrate that CO2 emitted from industrial sources—such as coal-fired power plants—can be stored in deep geological formations to mitigate the release of large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

The Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) hosted an event on April 6 for a CO2 injection test at its Decatur, Ill. ethanol facility. The injection well is being drilled into the Mount Simon Sandstone to a depth more than a mile. This is the first drilling into the sandstone geology since oil and gas exploratory drilling was conducted between 15 and 40 years ago. No wells within 50 miles have been drilled all the way to the bottom of the sandstone, which the storage well will do.

The project is funded by the DOE and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“This test represents an exciting step forward in the Department’s collaborative efforts to develop America’s carbon sequestration capabilities,” said Dr. Victor K. Der, acting assistant secretary for fossil energy. “In Decatur, we’re moving from theory to application.”

A collaboration between ADM and the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC), the injection test is part of the development phase of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program managed by the National Energy Laboratory (NETL) for the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (OFE).

The project will obtain core samples of the Mount Simon Sandstone during drilling that will be used in analysis to help determine the best section for injection. The sandstone formation is approximately 2,000 feet thick in the test area.

From 2010 to 2013, up to one million metric tons of captured  CO2 from ADM’s ethanol production facility in Decatur will be injected more than a mile beneath the surface into a deep saline formation. The amount of injected  CO2 will be roughly equal to the annual emissions of 220,000 automobiles.

Following injection, the site will be monitored to ensure safe and permanent storage of the CO2. Results of the project will provide important information on the future of carbon sequestration as a viable option for  CO2 storage.

The geology at the ADM site can be compared to a stack of rugs. Each rug represents a different geologic layer, such as sandstone, shale, dolomite, or anhydrites. Each has different characteristics. The layers have been deposited over millions of years.

The OFE launched the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership initiative in 2003 to determine the best approaches for capturing and permanently storing gases that can contribute to global climate change. The MGSC is one of seven regional partnerships created by the DOE to advance carbon sequestration technologies nationwide. Drilling operations to construct the injection well were started in February 2009.

MGSC is led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, the Indiana Geological Survey, and the Kentucky Geological Survey, in cooperation with government and other energy industry partners. This project is expected to create nearly 250 full-time jobs which will be supported throughout the project’s life of more than 10 years.

Source: DOE