CONSOL Energy and the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) at Virginia Tech announced their collaborative efforts on a research project to be conducted in Buchanan County, Va., with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).
The project is one of the carbon storage alternatives being explored by the NETL and will test the potential of unmineable coal seams to store carbon dioxide. CONSOL Energy will donate the use of three coalbed methane wells in the pilot project to be conducted by VCCER and NETL.
"We are pleased to be a part of this important research, which will serve to further define carbon storage alternatives and continue our collaborative efforts to develop clean coal technologies," said Steve Winberg, vice president of CONSOL Energy's research and development department. Representatives of VCCER, CONSOL Energy and Cardno MM&A (formerly Marshall Miller & Associates, a Southwest Virginia geological and mining consulting firm) were in attendance at the February meeting of the Buchanan County Board of Supervisors today to explain the project and its significance to members of the board and the public.
Using three coalbed methane wells donated by CONSOL Energy's CNX Gas Virginia operations, plans are to inject and store up to 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into underlying coal seams at the identified site this fall. CO2 is a naturally occurring odorless, colorless atmospheric gas. It is exhaled every time we breathe and one of its common uses is in the carbonation of drinks, including sodas. The injection will be performed during a one-year period and builds on a recently completed 1,000-ton injection test that took place in neighboring Russell County, Va. in 2009. CNX Gas, VCCER and NETL also participated in that test.
For this current research program, a comprehensive plan to monitor the injected CO2 has been established by VCCER and NETL to allow understanding of the feasibility of CO2 storage in unmineable coal seams and to explore the potential for enhanced coal bed methane recovery (ECBM). It is expected that the coal seam will adsorb the carbon dioxide and potentially release even more methane for collection and use, as occurred in the smaller scale test in Russell County. The current test is part of a larger effort funded by NETL for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) projects. CCUS is the process of capturing CO2 from large stationary sources, such as power plants, using that CO2 to produce more oil or natural gas from an existing field and simultaneously storing the CO2 in a way that prevents its release to the atmosphere.
"The research will test the ability to inject CO2 into coal seams that cannot be mined, as well as the potential to enhance coalbed methane recovery," said Dr. Michael Karmis, director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research and the Stonie Barker Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech. "I must praise the tremendous cooperation of the gas operator, CONSOL Energy's CNX Gas; and the mineral owner, Harrison-Wyatt, LLC, whose generosity helps make this most important research possible."
For this pilot test, the three existing coalbed methane wells to be utilized will be converted for CO2 injection and three new wells will be drilled to monitor reservoir pressure, gas composition and the CO2 path. The targeted coal seams are in the Pocahontas and Lee formations and range from 900 to 2,200 feet in depth and from 0.7 – 2.5 feet in thickness. The pilot project is expected to begin in Fall of 2013. "The results of this test will be vital to assess the potential of geologic storage in Appalachian coal seams as a safe and permanent method to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing coalbed methane recovery," Karmis explained.
The technical research team for the Buchanan County site is comprised of researchers from the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech; Cardno MM&A; CONSOL Energy's Research and Development department; the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy; Southern States Energy Board; Gerald R. Hill Ph.D., Inc.; Geological Survey of Alabama; Sandia Technologies; and Det Norske Veritas.
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