An injection of 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, has begun at a site in southeastern Washington to see if the greenhouse gas can be stored safely and permanently in ancient basalt flows about one-half mile underground. Boise Inc. teamed with WCTA Gold Member Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, and Praxair, Inc. to conduct the CO2 injection phase of the pilot project, one of seven regional partnerships throughout the United States aimed at finding safe and economical ways to permanently store the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have been conducting laboratory tests on basalts from the region for several years that have conclusively demonstrated the unique geochemical nature of basalts to quickly react with CO2 and form carbonate minerals or solid rock, the safest and most permanent form for storage in the subsurface,” said Battelle project manager Pete McGrail. “However convincing the laboratory data may be, proving the same processes operate deep underground can only be done by conducting a successful field demonstration. We have taken the very first steps to do that here in Wallula.”
During the next two to three weeks, Battelle scientists will work with Praxair technicians to inject into porous layers of basalt CO2 that has been compressed into a liquid-like state and over the next 14 months, fluid samples will be extracted from the injection well to be examined for changes in chemical composition in comparison to baseline data compiled prior to injection. At the end of the monitoring period, rock samples from the well are expected to exhibit the formation of limestone crystals as a result of CO2 reacting with minerals in the basalt.
According to recent DOE estimates, the United States and portions of Canada have enough potential capacity in geologic formations to store as much as 900 years of CO2 emissions. If the Wallula demonstration is successful, basalt flows in many parts of the world may serve as storage locations to store CO2 emissions from a variety of industrial facilities.
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