Major carbon sequestration project kicks off in Illinois

The Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC) has embarked on  the first million-tonne demonstration of carbon sequestration in the US.

The CO2 will be stored permanently in the Mt Simon Sandstone, more than a mile beneath the Illinois surface at Decatur.

“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 (CCUS) technology,” says Chuck McConnell, chief operating officer for the US Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy.

“This injection test project by MGSC, as well as those undertaken by other FE regional partnerships, are helping confirm the great potential and viability of permanent geologic storage as an important option in climate change mitigation strategies.”

MGSC is one of seven regional partnerships created by the DOE to advance technologies nationwide for capturing and permanently storing greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.

The $96 million Illinois Basin – Decatur Project was funded in 2007 and now marks the beginning of the injection of 1 million metric tonnes of CO2 over the next three years.

“Reaching the injection phase of this project is a major milestone in sequestration technology world-wide and for the State of Illinois,” says Prairie Research Institute executive director William W Shilts.

“Four years of effort are coming to fruition at a site with unique capabilities, some of them first-in-the-world with respect to the extensive subsurface monitoring system. It’s a strategic investment in Illinois’ future.”

The CO2 is being captured from the fermentation process used to produce ethanol at Archer Daniels Midland Company’s (ADM) corn processing complex. It’s compressed into a dense liquid and stored at a depth of 7,000 feet.

The estimated CO2 storage capacity of the Mt. Simon is 11 to 151 billion metric tonnes, and it is below several layers of shale that serve as an impermeable cap rock to hold the CO2 in place, says the team.

Carbon sequestration, however  remains an expensive and controversial strategy to combat global warming. A recent project in Virginia was canceled this summer over cost concerns.

And a study last year concluded that many sites targeted for CCS projects could run the risk of poisoning local water supplies.