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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, July 27, 2000

KU Researchers Receive Major Grant

LAWRENCE--University of Kansas researchers at the Energy Research Center and the Kansas Geological Survey have received a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a three-year, five-state project related to reducing greenhouse gas concentrations.

The grant will be used to develop a digital database of information about carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas. The database will integrate regional information on CO2 sources with potential sites for geologic sequestration.

Some scientists believe that human-induced increases in carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases, may contribute to the current cycle of warming the earth is undergoing today. Greenhouse gases, mostly water vapor but also carbon dioxide and methane, trap heat in the earth's atmosphere rather than radiating it back to deep space. Without these gases, the earth would be too cold to sustain life as we know it, like Mars. However, if human activities are generating more greenhouse gases than the atmosphere, land, and oceans can absorb, it will ultimately cause more warming than natural.

Geologic sequestration--trapping CO2 in geological reservoirs--may be one way to safely manage CO2 over long periods of time. Potential sites for such sequestration include oil and gas fields, coal beds, and abandoned subsurface mines.

The database, called the Midcontinent Interactive Digital Carbon Atlas and Relational DataBase (MIDCARB), will be developed by a consortium of five state geological surveys. The other states involved are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.

"The goal is to create a planning tool that will allow users to evaluate different strategies for sequestration in the midcontinent," said Survey geologist Tim Carr, leader of the project. "We want to provide a sound knowledge base that will allow for well-informed policy decisions."

The project will involve the design and construction of relational databases and software systems that can access and integrate data from a variety of different computers.

Among the information contained in MIDCARB will be an inventory of large stationary CO2 sources, such as coal-fired power plants, fertilizer plants, and steel mills. Maps will show locations of potential sequestration sites in relation to power plants and other large CO2 sources.

"Because increases in atmospheric CO2 are thought to be linked to global climate change, it's possible that CO2 emissions may be regulated in the future," said Scott White, researcher at the KU Energy Research Center. "With MIDCARB, our goal is to gather all the information together in one place and put it in a form that will allow planners to make informed decisions about how best to manage CO2 in the region."

In related research, KU researchers are conducting a pilot project near Russell, Kansas, to study the technical and economic feasibility of using CO2 to recover additional oil from depleted reservoirs. One potential source for the CO2 used in this recovery are flue gases discharged at electrical power plants.

In addition to the DOE funds, the five states will contribute $916,000 to the project. KU's share of the federal funding will be about $672,000 plus administration costs over the three years of the project.

The MIDCARB is one of 13 projects being funded by the DOE's carbon sequestration reseach program. This is a relatively new area of science that envisions ways to capture greenhouse gases and either store them for centuries or recycle them into useful products.

Story by Liz Brosius, (785) 864-2063
For more information, contact Tim Carr, (785) 864-2135.

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