DOE has created a network of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs) to help develop the technology, infrastructure, and regulations to implement large-scale CO2 storage (also called carbon sequestration) in different regions and geologic formations within the Nation.
Government research to mitigate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, would be far less effective without collaboration. Sharing ideas, researchers, and facilities lowers costs and makes novel technologies available for general use much faster than going it alone.
For the past decade, the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has managed a nationwide network of partnerships that team government, industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations to identify the best approaches for permanently storing CO2 in deep geologic formations. Research performed by the seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships helps validate the most suitable technologies and infrastructure needs for this process, called geologic carbon capture and storage (CCS). From this research, researchers have learned myriad lessons, each leading to more effective ways to contain and monitor CO2 once it’s injected underground.
So what is geologic CCS? The first thing to know is that it’s a critical part of national efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from stationary sources such as power plants, natural gas processing plants, and other industrial sites. It works like this: After gaseous CO2 is captured from the source, it is compressed and transported to a storage site. At the site, CO2 the consistency of sea water is injected into porous and permeable rock formations deep underground. These formations, far below any usable groundwater sources, are capped by impermeable rock that keeps the CO2 from escaping to the surface. Monitoring wells are set up to track the migration of the CO2 within the storage formations, ensuring that storage is safe and permanent.
Because the United States is a nation of varied emission sources, topography, and geology, the seven partnerships are tailored to address the specific characteristics of their respective regions. Each partnership evaluates potential storage sites in its geographical area and determines the optimal approach for CCS. Testing conducted at the sites prior to, during, and after injection provides insight regarding injectivity, capacity, and containment of CO2 in the formations. Determining best practices for each region leads the partnerships to identify regulatory and infrastructure requirements for future commercial deployment, making CCS easier and more effective.
True to the collaborative spirit of the partnerships, sharing doesn’t end with the completion of a particular project. NETL and the seven partnerships also make available the results of their research and what they have discovered. To augment the information-sharing that occurs through avenues such as research papers, scientific conferences, and technical reports, we will, over the next several weeks, post online a short series of lessons learned from the regional partnerships’ carbon storage projects. These “plain English” blog posts will include such topics as site characterization, industry partnerships, public outreach and education, and monitoring, verification, and accounting.