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Large-Volume Carbon Dioxide Injection Test in Illinois Reaches Halfway Point

Carbon Storage Test to Inject 1 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide in Saline Formation

Washington — A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded project demonstrating the commercial viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Illinois Basin has reached its halfway point, injecting 500,000 metric tons of a planned 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a deep saline formation. The Illinois Basin–Decatur Project, conducted by the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, is part of the development phase of DOE's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships initiative, which is developing and validating CCS technologies as part of a national strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

Carbon dioxide for the project is captured from an ethanol-production facility operated by the Archer Daniels Midland Company in Decatur, Illinois. A processing plant built for the project removes water from the CO2 stream and then compresses the dry CO2 to a dense, liquid-like, "supercritical" phase. The compressed CO2 then travels through a mile-long pipeline to the wellhead, where it is injected into the Mount Simon Sandstone reservoir, some 7,000 feet below the surface. Injection operations were initiated on November 17, 2011.

The data collected from the project's comprehensive monitoring, verification, and accounting program, since injection began, indicate that the Mount Simon Sandstone reservoir is performing as expected, with very good injectivity, excellent storage capacity, and no significant adverse environmental issues. Pressure readings from an observation well 1,000 feet from the injection well suggest that the injected CO2 has not reached the middle of the 1,500-foot-thick Mt. Simon reservoir. Models that project the movement of the CO2 plume over 100 years suggest that the CO2 will remain below this level. Data from a 3D vertical seismic profile acquired in early April 2013 is expected to further define the position of the plume.

Successfully testing and demonstrating CCS technologies under real-world conditions are important steps toward the eventual commercial deployment of CCS technologies. The technologies applied and lessons learned from this project will also support industry in the region looking to develop CO2 capture and transport infrastructure, whether it is for carbon storage or for enhanced oil recovery in the depleted oilfields of the Illinois Basin.

The seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships form a nationwide network that is investigating the merits of numerous CCS approaches to determine those best suited for different regions of the country. Launched in 2003, the network now extends through 43 states, four Canadian provinces, and three Indian nations, and includes more than 400 state agencies, universities, and private companies. The initiative is managed by the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

The Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, is evaluating options for the 60,000-square-mile Illinois Basin, which underlies most of Illinois, southwestern Indiana, and western Kentucky. Emissions in this area exceed 291 million metric tons of CO2 yearly, mostly attributed to the region's coal-fired power plants.

For more information about the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships initiative, please see the NETL website.

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences releases Seismic Report

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences released a report on June 15, 2012 entitled "Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies." This report addresses potential induced (human-made) seismicity caused by such energy technologies as Geothermal Fluid Production, Enhanced Oil Recovery, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

The report finds that only a very small fraction of injection and extraction activities at hundreds-of-thousands of energy development sites in the United States have induced seismicity at levels that are detectable by humans. The report points out, however, that no large-volume CCS storage sites have been developed and tested.

The NRC report goes on to note the need for significant amounts of continued research on the potential for induced seismicity in large, commercial-scale CCS projects. However, the report highlights the importance of what it classifies as small-scale research projects currently underway, such as the Illinois Basin - Decatur Project (IBDP) that will provide important field data and lead to the development of best practices.

The IBDP team offers the following points regarding the NRC report:

  1. We concur with the reports finding that continued research is needed on the potential for induced seismicity in large-scale CCS projects. As highlighted in this report, the IBDP is carrying out exactly the kind of research being called for and we expect to make significant contributions to meeting the research needs defined in the report as we collect data over the three-year injection period which started in November 2011.

  2. The report points out that research projects should consider induced seismicity before and during actual operation of an energy project. The IBDP has done exactly that by deploying state-of-the art instrumentation to monitor the project site and be able to contribute to best practices protocols specific to CCS. As noted on page 88 of the report, IBDP detected seismic activity unrelated to the project providing corroboration that the monitoring equipment is fully operational.

  3. The report indicates that new information is needed to better predict induced seismicity including theoretical modeling and actual field measurements. By injecting small volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into a well-characterized reservoir, IBDP is in a position to contribute the critical field measurements called for in this report.

  4. The report points out that CCS which does not cause a significant increase in pore pressure above its original value will likely minimize the potential for inducing seismic events. Good permeability and a thick reservoir with high storage capacity help to minimize pore pressure increases and this is exactly the type of reservoir represented by the Mt. Simon Sandstone and the IBDP at Decatur, Illinois.

  5. The report makes a series of research recommendations regarding data collection, instrumentation and modeling that the authors would like to see carried out. The IBDP is acting in each of these areas. We are collecting high quality field observations of very small microseismic events. We have deployed novel instrumentation deep in the subsurface to collect these data. Further, we are integrating these data with our reservoir and geomechanical models to more fully understand the very small level of induced microseismicity we have seen to-date.

  6. The report notes that the potential for microseismic events is related to the maximum induced pore pressure. And the induced pore pressure dissipates rapidly with increased permeability. The Mt. Simon Sandstone at a depth of 7,000 feet has excellent permeability, much better than many oil reservoirs in the Illinois Basin and this condition works to reduce the risk of microseismic activity while we are collecting critical data at our Decatur site.

  7. We are pleased that the report describes the work we are doing at Decatur and points to the fact that we are carrying out microseismic monitoring both in the injection well itself and in a specially drilled geophysical monitoring well. This monitoring will be continued throughout the period of injection and for three years after injection in order to assure that we thoroughly understand any microseismic events that might be related to our test project.

  8. The report notes that the National Energy Technology Laboratory has found that no harmful induced seismicity has been associated with any of the global CCS storage demonstration projects as of February 2011. We agree that all storage projects need to continue to monitor and address this issue throughout the life of CCS projects.

The IBDP expects to continue to provide critical CCS field data and modeling while contributing to the development of best practices as recommended by the National Research Council. Our goal as always remains the operation of a safe and comprehensive project at Decatur, Illinois, a site that was selected after more than three years of research to qualify the site prior to injection of CO2.

Full report available at

Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium
Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium
Advanced Energy
Technology Initiative

University of Illinois
615 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820