Washington, DC - A field test demonstrating the best approaches for terrestrial carbon dioxide (CO2) storage in the heartland of North America has been successfully completed by one of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs).
The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership , a collaboration of over 80 U.S. and Canadian stakeholders, conducted the field test at sites in the Prairie Pothole Region, extending from central Iowa into Northern Alberta, Canada. The area contains thousands of shallow wetlands called "potholes" that were formed by retreating glaciers approximately 10,000 years ago.
Terrestrial carbon storage, or sequestration, involves plant removal of CO2 from the atmosphere using photosynthesis, and storage of the carbon in biomass and soils. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), including terrestrial sequestration, is a promising option as part of a portfolio strategy for reducing atmospheric CO2 emissions and helping mitigate potential climate change.
Participating PCOR Partnership organizations -- including Ducks Unlimited Inc., the U.S. Geological Survey Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, and North Dakota State University -- collected soil and gas samples from restored grasslands, native prairie, cropland, and wetlands throughout Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. In addition to carbon uptake and storage measurements, methane and nitrous oxide gas levels were also measured to estimate the net change in greenhouse gas levels.
Initiated in 2005, the PCOR Partnership project's results will help develop protocols for terrestrial carbon credit development and trading and serve as a model for promoting and implementing terrestrial sequestration across the Prairie Pothole region and beyond. The Prairie Pothole Region project was one of four small-scale validation tests - one terrestrial and three geologic - completed by the PCOR Partnership, which is now conducting two large-scale geologic storage development tests.
The PCOR Partnership is developing and carrying out a variety of field projects to demonstrate and optimize practical and environmentally sound geologic and terrestrial sequestration in the partnership region. Led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the partnership is identifying the most promising opportunities for sequestration in the region, demonstrating technologies, and detailing action plans for implementing regional CO2 sequestration projects.
The RCSP program is a government-industry effort aimed at developing best practices and approaches for capturing and storing CO2. The program, a key component in DOE's overall CO2 geologic storage research, is managed by the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory. The seven RCSPs include representatives from more than 500 organizations, such as state agencies, national laboratories, universities, industry, and private companies, spanning 43 states and four Canadian provinces.