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DOE Regional Partnership Initiates CO2 Injection in Lignite Coal Seam

March 10, 2009 - 1:00pm

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Washington, DC -- A U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) team of regional partners has begun injecting CO2 into a deep lignite coal seam in Burke County, North Dakota, to demonstrate the economic and environmental viability of geologic CO2 storage in the U.S. Great Plains region. Ultimately, geologic carbon sequestration is expected to play an important role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

The Lignite Field Validation Test is being conducted by the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, one of seven regional partnerships under DOE's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program. The seven partnerships form a national network that is investigating the best approaches for capturing and permanently storing CO2. Nearly three dozen projects are underway under the validation phase of the partnerships program.

The PCOR Partnership plans to inject approximately 400 tons of CO2 into a 10-foot thick lignite seam at a depth of approximately 1,100 feet. In collaboration with Eagle Operating Inc., a five-spot well configuration was drilled in the summer of 2007 consisting of a center injection well surrounded by four monitoring wells. In addition to evaluating the lignite seam's CO2 storage potential, the enhancement to coalbed methane extraction will also be evaluated.

The results of the PCOR Partnership's Phase I characterization activities indicated that the region's low-rank coal seams have the capacity to store up to 8 billion tons of CO2. Phase I results also suggested that more than 17 trillion cubic feet of methane could be incrementally produced from low-rank coal seams. To date, no field studies have been conducted on the ability of lignite coal seams to store CO2. The field-based investigations conducted under this activity will provide previously unavailable insight regarding the sequestration of CO2 in low-rank coals. This insight can be broadly applied both within the region and more broadly, as low-rank coal seams are known to occur throughout western North America.

The Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program was created in 2003 to determine which of numerous sequestration approaches are best suited for different regions of the country. The partnership program is being implemented in three phases. The characterization phase (2003-2005), which defined opportunities for carbon capture and storage, has been completed. The validation phase (2005-2009) generally involves small-scale field tests and includes the PCOR Partnership lignite test. The final phase, the development phase (2007-2017), will conduct large-volume carbon storage tests. The long-term storage of CO2 by injection in underground geologic reservoirs is expected to play a major role in addressing climate change concerns. NETL manages the partnership program for DOE's Office of Fossil Energy.

The PCOR Partnership is managed by the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center and includes more than 80 public and private partners in all or part of nine states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin) as well as four Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba).The Lignite Field Validation Test is one of four tests the partnership is conducting under the validation phase of the regional partnerships program. These four tests, plus two large-volume sequestration tests that the PCOR Partnership is planning as part of the development phase of the partnerships program, have created more than 400 jobs that will continue through 2017.

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