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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Dec. 2, 2011

Kansas Geological Survey receives $11.5 million to test storage of CO2 underground

LAWRENCE--The Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas has received a $11.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to test the safety and efficacy of storing carbon dioxide (CO2)--captured from an industrial source--deep underground in south-central Kansas.

The cooperative agreement is the largest ever received by the KGS.

This is the first time CO2 emitted during industrial activities will be captured and injected underground for long-term storage in Kansas. Sequestration of CO2 in saline aquifers is being tested throughout the United States, with larger tests in Texas and Illinois.

CO2 is a natural and essential component of the atmosphere, but it is also a greenhouse gas--a byproduct of fossil fuels emissions from vehicles and such stationary sources as electric, cement, ethanol, and fertilizer plants--that has been considered a cause of climate change.

A collaborative effort between government and industry, the four-year project includes scientists from the KGS, the KU and Kansas State University Departments of Geology, Wichita-based BEREXCO, Inc., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and Sandia Technologies.

KGS geologists Lynn Watney and Jason Rush are the lead investigators. The injection well is within the boundaries of the Wellington oil field south of Wichita in Sumner County, and the CO2 will be transported from the Abengoa Bioenergy Corporation plant near Colwich. Abengoa is a global biotech ethanol company.

At least 40,000 metric tons of CO2 emitted by the plant will be compressed and injected more than 5,000 feet underground into the lower portion of the Arbuckle aquifer, which is about 1,350 feet beneath the Wellington field's Mississippian producing zone.

The Arbuckle is a porous rock group that, in this part of the state, contains water that is too saline for human consumption. The Arbuckle aquifer is separated from shallower freshwater aquifers by thousands of feet of impermeable rock.

"Establishing suitability and significant capacity for CO2 sequestration in the deep saline Arbuckle aquifer of southern Kansas could help justify a carbon capture and pipeline infrastructure for long-term, uninterrupted sequestration," Watney said.

In addition to the CO2 introduced into the Arbuckle, approximately 30,000 metric tons will be injected into the shallower oil-producing Mississippian formation as part of an enhanced oil recovery pilot program.

CO2 is used in enhanced oil recovery operations to squeeze out trapped oil unreachable by traditional recovery methods. The technique has been used extensively in West Texas oil fields and in a DOE-funded demonstration project in Russell County, Kansas.

The nearly depleted Wellington field has produced 20.6 million barrels of oil since 1927. Innovations in enhanced oil recovery could increase the production of hard-to-reach oil not only in the Wellington but also in fields across Kansas.

Positive results from this and other ongoing DOE-funded KGS studies could advance the use of CO2 for oil recovery as well as help justify a new industry to capture, transport and store it, Watney said. Both uses have the potential to enhance state and local economies.

The KGS has also received previous DOE funding for ongoing subsurface-characterization studies in the Wellington field and in Ellis County north of Hays to determine if rocks in the Arbuckle Group can safely contain CO2 and to model the movement of underground fluids.

The new $11.5 million cooperative agreement is from DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Total DOE funding of the KGS's CO2 sequestration research is approximately $23 million.

Beyond the $11.5 million DOE funding, the KGS and its partners--Kansas State University, BEREXCO, Inc., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and Sandia Technology--are providing nearly $3.2 million in cost-share contributions, such as drilling and engineering personnel, equipment, facilities and discounted services.

Besides injecting CO2 at the Wellington site, the researchers will use observation wells and state-of-the-art monitoring techniques to track the CO2 plume and measure seismic and fluid properties. They also will develop a rapid-response mitigation plan to minimize leakage and instigate a comprehensive risk-management strategy.

"Demonstration of best practices of injection, monitoring, verifying, and accounting of the CO2 could be used as a framework to expedite implementation by the Kansas petroleum industry, which is best equipped to manage and benefit from this enterprise," Watney said.

Story by Cathy Evans, (785) 864-2195.
For more information, contact Lynn Watney, (785) 864-2184

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach