First Large Scale Carbon Capture Project Underway

The first large scale carbon sequestration project in the US is now operating in conjunction with an ethanol plant in Illinois.

1,000 metric tons a day are being sequestered now, and over the next three years, over a million tons will be stored 7000 feet underground. The site has room for 11-151 billion metric tons of liquefied CO2.

Carbon emissions from a corn ethanol plant owned by agri-giant Archer Daniels Midland are compressed into a dense liquid to facilitate injection deep underground below a sandstone formation. Several layers of shale create an impermeable cap rock to hold the carbon dioxide in place.  

"The analysis of data collected beginning in 2003 indicates that the lower Mt. Simon Sandstone has the necessary geological characteristics to be an excellent injection target for safe and effective storage of CO2," says Robert Finley, director of the Illinois State Geological Survey’s sequestration team. The project was funded with $96 million in 2007.

"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." says Prairie Research Institute Executive Director, William Shilts.

"We fully believe it will be safe," says Finley. "We already have excellent baseline environmental data." One of the most extensive environmental monitoring programs in the world is being employed by Schlumberger Carbon Services. 

The partners laud Archers Daniel for sticking with the project during the four years it took to get to this point. Other regional partnerships have failed over the past couple of years because the industrial partner pulled out for one reason or another.

Representatives from Australia, China, Norway, Spain and Japan already have visited the project, which is one seven regional sites the U.S. Department of Energy created to advance carbon capture technologies nationwide.

A second major carbon capture project is also making progress at Richland Community College in partnership with Archers Daniel. The $208 million project, scheduled to begin by 2013, is is expected to sequester 2.5 million tons of CO2 over two and a half years.

And a National Sequestration Education Center is being built on the Richland campus.

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