By some estimates, deep saline-rock formations in the United States could store up to 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), or about 18 times the total of all energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions released worldwide in 2005. While many experts are optimistic about geological carbon sequestration’s potential to combat greenhouse gas emissions, there have been relatively few large-scale research and demonstration projects designed to assess the technology’s effectiveness.
This is why ADM has teamed with the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, the Illinois State Geological Survey, Schlumberger Carbon Services, The Dow Chemical Company, Alstom Power and the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct studies that aim to confirm, over the course of several years, the ability of the Mount Simon Sandstone rock formation to accept and store large volumes of CO2 captured from ADM’s Decatur, Illinois, ethanol and cogeneration plants. The Mount Simon formation makes up part of the Illinois Basin, a 60,000-square-mile geologic feature that extends under Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky.
In the spring of 2009, the drilling of an approximately 7,200-foot-deep injection well at the 207-acre project site — located on ADM property near the Decatur ethanol plant — was completed. Construction of a CO2 dehydration/compression facility and a 6,500-foot-long pipeline to transport compressed CO2 from the ethanol plant to the well commenced a short time later. Beginning in late 2010, CO2 from the ethanol-fermentation process that otherwise would be emitted into the atmosphere will be injected at a rate of 1,000 metric tons per day for a period of about three years. This portion of the research may help determine whether geologic carbon sequestration can improve the environmental footprint of alternative fuels such as ethanol by capturing and storing emissions associated with their production.
In a second project awarded in October 2009, ADM was selected by the Department of Energy for a Phase I study to investigate the potential of post-combustion CO2 capture and storage at its Decatur cogeneration plant. The Company and its collaborators will focus on purifying CO2 that has been separated from flue gas. Should the results prove promising from both technical and financial standpoints, the project partners may proceed to an implementation phase, which would result in the injection of an additional 2,100 metric tons of CO2 per day.
The Department of Energy has noted that the Illinois Basin-Decatur projects will “promote understanding of injectivity, capacity and storability of carbon dioxide in the various geologic formations,” and that “results and assessments from these efforts will help in commercialization efforts for future sequestration projects in North America.”