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Award-Winning DOE Technology Scores Success in Carbon Storage Project

June 9, 2010 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC -- The ability to detect and track the movement of carbon dioxide (CO2) in underground geologic storage reservoirs -- an important component of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology -- has been successfully demonstrated at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) New Mexico test site.

The SEQURE(TM) tracer technology, developed by scientists at the Office of Fossil Energy's (FE) National Energy Technology Laboratory, was successfully tested at the San Juan Basin coalbed test site. SEQURE uses perfluorocarbon tracers (PFTs) - non-toxic, chemically inert clear colorless liquids - to provide a verifiable way to measure CO2 movement as well as provide leak detection.

Research demonstrating and confirming long-term CO2 storage security is an important precondition to large-scale deployment of CCS, considered by many scientists as a significant part of a portfolio approach to helping meet the global climate change challenge.

At the San Juan Basin, the SEQURE tracers detected gas first in the eastern-most of three production wells and then in the southwest production well. Numerical models used for the test site had predicted the CO2 movement but indicated that the movement would initially occur at the southwest well.

The tracer technology proved invaluable as a tool to improve modeling techniques vitally important in defining storage capacity, injection capability, flow rates, and numbers of wells associated with sequestration sites. The technology can measure concentrations as small as parts-per-quadrillion and differentiate injected CO2 from natural CO2.

DOE and its Southwest Regional Partnership (SWP) began injecting about 35,000 tons of CO2 into the San Juan coalbed to maximize permanent storage of CO2, while simultaneously recovering natural gas. Injecting CO2 into the coalbed displaces the methane and makes it easier to produce.

The San Juan Basin is considered one of the best sites worldwide for coalbed methane recovery, as well as a prime site for CO2 sequestration. The site contains three coalbed methane-producing wells and a central injection well.

In 2009, the patent-pending SEQURE technology earned R&D Magazine's prestigious R&D 100 Award, emblematic of one of the top 100 most significant products introduced to the marketplace during the past year. It received its first R&D 100 Award in 2007 as a major breakthrough in carbon storage and was touted as the only commercially available technology capable of searching vast areas for abandoned oil and gas wells in reservoirs having the potential to store CO2.