Evaluation Begins at W. VA Site for Carbon Sequestration

Drilling has begun on a 10,000-foot well to evaluate underground rock layers in New Haven, W. Va., as part of a Department of Energy carbon sequestration research project now underway at the American Electric Power (AEP) Mountaineer plant there.

Sequestration, the capture and storage of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels, is one of several climate change mitigation technologies currently being studied by the Department of Energy (DOE) and scientists worldwide. The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions believed to contribute to global climate change in support President Bush’s initiatives on national climate change technology.

"This project marks another step forward in our efforts to improve the environment while still making sensible use of coal, our most abundant energy source in the United States," Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. "Maximizing our ability to sequester carbon dioxide through environmentally safe and effective methods is a mainstay of our efforts to reduce our reliance on foreign fossil energy sources. We must continue to find ways to make better use of our own energy resources while still being mindful of the environment, and carbon sequestration is an excellent example of our efforts in that regard."

The topic of carbon sequestration was recently the focus of a Ministerial forum hosted by DOE and attended by representatives of 18 countries. At the forum, the attendees signed an international agreement on clean emissions technologies, including carbon sequestration, that sets the framework for international cooperation in research and development for the separation, capture, transportation and storage of carbon as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The 18-month AEP study will determine whether the geology near the Mountaineer Plant is suitable for injection of carbon dioxide deep into the earth, where it can be absorbed and permanently captured. If the site proves to be geologically sound for carbon capture and sequestration, the data from the study will be used to inform simulations, risk assessment and permit applications, and to design the monitoring plans for future steps in the effort.

The study is part of a $4.2 million carbon sequestration research project funded primarily by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and is led by Battelle Laboratories. The project is managed by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). The drilling and seismic survey were preceded by an extensive effort to inform the plant employees, neighbors, local and state officials and other interested groups about the project.

The seismic survey, another step in the research project, were completed last month. To conduct the survey, a crew placed sensitive microphones on the ground and listened to the echoing vibrations created by a specially equipped “thumper” truck. To expand the opportunities for scientists to monitor the vibrations, very small explosive charges may be detonated in shallow holes drilled along the survey route as well. Analysis of the vibrations reveals composition of the rock layers and further assists the scientists in determining if the geography will support carbon sequestration.

Mountaineer was chosen as the test site for the project in part due to its location in the Ohio River Valley area, which is thought to be geologically ideal for carbon capture and sequestration. The Ohio River Valley also is home to many fossil fuel-fired electricity generation plants that power the U.S. economy.

In addition to AEP, Battelle and NETL, other partners providing financial and in-kind support to the project include BP, the Ohio Coal Development Office, and Schlumberger Limited. Technical support for the project is being provided by experts from NETL and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, as well as from West Virginia University, the Ohio Geological Survey, Ohio State University, and several other leading research service providers.
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