Carbon Sequestration in the Mid-Columbia

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Pete McGrail, PNNL scientist, sent us a copy of his Powerpoint for a Pasco-Kennewick Rotary presentation and some references to other links on the Internet. The following article is based on these resources.

One of the great energy sources of the US is coal. We have vast supplies of the stuff, but there is a problem. When you burn coal to produce heat, generate electricity, or drive machinery, huge amounts of carbon dioxide are produced. Whether one believes that global warming is man made or not, there can be no doubt that dumping megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere cannot be a good thing. A solution is needed if we are to take advantage of our coal reserves in the future.

Pete McGrail  is working on a possible solution to this problem and his presentation provides insights into how this might be done right here in the Mid-Columbia. His topic is CO2 Sequestration in Columbia River Basalts: Pilot Project Overview. The Battelle project is being done in conjunction with Montana State University, University of Idaho, and other northwest schools. The Department of Natural Resources is a partner, and there are many international partners as well. Boise White Paper L.L.C., Shell Oil and Portland General Electric also participate.

Basalt is the medium of choice for carbon sequestration due to its abundance around the globe, the knowledge base that exists from the 30 plus years of study here at Hanford regarding the local basalt aquifer system, and the physical nature of local basalts. Columbia River Basalts cover 164,000 square kilometers and extend to a depth of as much as 12,000 feet. An added benefit is the deeper basalts contain non-potable water. Layers of permeable basalt, at great depth, are topped with impermeable layers. This provides a cap and prevents migration to the surface of harmful materials that might be produced. The proposed site for the pilot project is on the property of the Boise paper mill at Wallula and could be used by the mill after tests prove the concept.

The test will consist of pumping 1000 metric tons of CO2 to a layer about 3500 feet deep. Laboratory tests have shown that the CO2 will dissolve in the formation water and eventually become mineralized for permanent storage. Extensive monitoring of air and water are planned to determine the feasibility of the concept. Core samples will be taken over a period of 2 to 3 years to check on the mineralization process.

Conclusions

• The pilot project has been designed to address key questions about sequestration in basalts that simply cannot be done in a laboratory setting.
• Extensive site characterization and testing is underway prior to any CO2 injection. Consultations with the WADOE, DNR, the project partners, and independent consultants will occur every step of the way.
• Post-injection monitoring is planned to continue over the entire study period to ensure that CO2 is not migrating out of the injection zone and to track progress toward mineralization.
• International scientific community is awaiting outcome of this study

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