Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tech Receives Grant For Carbon Project

By John Larson

SOCORRO – Scientists at New Mexico Tech will be receiving $400,000 to develop a technology for storing carbon dioxide underground.
The funding, a portion of $21.3 million for 15 separate carbon sequestration projects, was announced by Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week. Carbon sequestration refers to techniques used to capture and store greenhouse gases in geologic formations to reduce global warming.
According to Chu, the project “will support the goal of helping reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, developing and deploying near-zero-emission coal technologies and making the country a leader in mitigating climate change.”
Peter Mozley, geology professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at New Mexico Tech is part of a three person team looking into the feasibility of injecting and storing CO2 deep underground. Mozley, along with Thomas Dewers of Sandia Labs and James Evans, geology at Utah State University in Logan.
“The idea is that you capture CO2 before it makes into the atmosphere. Then compress it and put in a pipeline and pump it into an underground reservoir,” Mozley said.
Mozley said their research is focused on two types of formations.
“We’re looking at two types of repositories,” Mozley said. “One is a depleted oil reservoir, where they got as much oil out as they can. The pre-existing wells can be used as injection sites.” But on the other hand, he said, the wells could be a source of leakage of stored CO2.
“The other type is deep saline aquifers. Aquifers that can are not be used as drinking water or anything else,” Mozley said.
The researchers returned from field work in Utah this week where they were gathering data on specific geologic formations that could be considered as CO2 repositories.
“We look for caprock, like a shale, which would be like a seal to keep the gas from escaping back into the atmosphere,” he said. “Shale has very tiny pore spaces that would prevent CO2 from leaking through.
“Our project is to look at detailed features on how fractures behave at the interface, and look at ways to make the seals work better,” he said. “Our research is focused on field sites that have good examples of caprock.
Research into carbon dioxide reduction has been going on for several years. New Mexico Tech is also involved in a study on how to capture the carbon dioxide at the point of occurrence, such as a smokestack.
“The capturing is the trick, collecting it right a the point, and leaving nitrogen, oxygen, and a small amount of carbon dioxide,” Reid Grigg, Tech’s senior petroleum engineer said in a 2007 interview.
Mozley said the ultimate goal of the overall DOE project is to combat global climate change.
“CO2 one of the biggest greenhouse gasses to contribute to global warming,” he said.
New Mexico Tech will provide matching funds of $100,000 for the three month project. Tech is part of the South West Partnership for CO2 Sequestration which includes nine member states including New Mexico and Colorado, the Navajo Nation, universities, and electric utilities, and coal, oil and gas corporations.

Picture: James Evans, Thomas Dewers, and New Mexico Tech and Utah State University students examine fractures and mineralization in an outcrop at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah.

Photo by Peter Mozley

No comments:

Post a Comment