WASHINGTON, DC - When scientists
recently pumped 700 metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide
(CO2) a mile underground as a follow-up to a 2004 effort, they initiated
a series of tests to determine the feasibility of storing the CO2 in
brine formations, a major step forward in the U.S. Department of Energy's
carbon sequestration program.
The Frio Brine project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and
managed by DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory, is designed to
determine how the CO2 moves through brine- filled highly porous sandstone
representative of formations found worldwide. By closely monitoring the
CO2 flow with technologically advanced instruments over the next year,
the researchers will add to their knowledge of whether these formations
can effectively store CO2 over long periods of time, thereby significantly
reducing the amount of the gas released to the atmosphere.
"Building on earlier Frio Brine tests, this current project will take the
next logical step in the Nation's carbon sequestration program to evaluate
the storage potential of underground formations," said Assistant Secretary
for Fossil Energy Jeffrey Jarrett. "This test will help to advance our injection
and monitoring technology to the point where we know what formations can safely
and effectively store greenhouse gases in each region of the country to address
global climate change."
Researchers from the lead project partner, the University of Texas at Austin's
Bureau of Economic Geology, injected the CO2 into a test well near Dayton,
Texas, about 40 miles northeast of Houston. The research team, including Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Geological
Survey, and Sandia Technologies LLC, has replicated in a new sandstone interval
the initial tests conducted in 2004 to evaluate the fate of CO2 in the underground
In the 2004 tests, the researchers successfully applied computer models to
predict that the CO2 would quickly stop after traveling a short distance through
the formation. Concurrently, the instruments used by the researchers were able
to accurately measure both the pattern of movement and the final distribution
of the carbon dioxide.
During the first weeks of the current year-long monitoring project, researchers
have already begun to collect important data on the chemistry, pressure, and
temperature changes caused by injection and the processes by which the formation
returns to a stable condition. By the end of the project, researchers will
have collected new information to better assess and monitor larger-scale, longer-duration
injections of CO2, an important step forward in understanding the sequestration
The Frio Brine Pilot project falls within the Gulf Coast Carbon Center area,
a participant in DOE's Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership.
DOE created a network of regional government/industry partnerships to help
determine the best approaches for capturing and permanently storing gases in
different areas of the country.
Sequestration of CO2 and other gases plays a major role in reducing the effects
of greenhouse gases associated with global warming. Carbon sequestration also
plays a major role in the nation's power plant of the future, FutureGen, a
$1 billion DOE effort to build the world's first zero-emissions coal-burning
plant that will produce electricity and hydrogen while storing carbon dioxide.