Report Says Pennsylvania’s Geology Could Support Storing Carbon Dioxide Underground

May 5, 2009

DCNR Findings Could Lead to Innovative Ways to Combat Climate Change, Create Opportunities to Use Coal in Environmentally Friendly Way

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A recently issued report from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources shows Pennsylvania’s underground geology may hold the key to protecting the environment against climate change while leading to new opportunities for the state’s coal industry.

Acting DNCR Secretary John Quigley said the report found that Pennsylvania’s subsurface geologic formations can support the development of a carbon sequestration network that could store climate changing greenhouse gases, help reduce the environmental impact of coal-fired electricity generators, and create jobs in the process.

“Governor Rendell has launched an intensive effort to assess the state’s geologic storage potential and facilitate the large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage technology,” said Quigley. “Developing such a technology means Pennsylvania’s abundant coal resources can be used in a more environmentally friendly manner and that could lead to an extraordinarily large number of research and development, manufacturing, retrofit, and export jobs for our citizens. At the same time, we’ll be able to aggressively tackle one of the largest environmental and economic challenges facing our planet today.”

The findings were included in a report provided to the Governor and General Assembly on May 1 as required by Act 129 of 2008. The law requires DCNR to conduct a series of studies on carbon sequestration.

The 149-page report contains detailed and technical information about the state’s geology. It can be viewed at www.dcnr.state.pa.us, choose “Carbon Sequestration” under “Hot Topics,” then click on “Geologic Carbon Sequestration Opportunities in Pennsylvania.”

A carbon sequestration network would involve first capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired electricity generating plants and other industrial sources. It would then be compressed into a liquid and cooled, and transported through pipelines to a sequestration site, where it would be injected into the rock formations or other suitable geologic features deep beneath the surface.

The assessment included reviewing available data on deep saline aquifers, depleted oil-and-gas reservoir rocks, unmineable coal beds, shales and thick salt beds. Most of the available data is from oil and gas well records from western Pennsylvania where such activity is more prevalent. Such information is more difficult to obtain for the central and eastern areas because there is less oil and gas drilling activity in those regions.

The report found that four potential geologic formations could be candidates for sequestration in the western and north central regions, although these formations are known to underlie most areas of the state.

Detailed site evaluations would need to be performed at specific locations to make a final determination about whether they are suitable. Suitable formations have alternating layers of rocks of different types, some of which form barriers that cannot be penetrated.

DCNR’s Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey is conducting additional data searches that will be followed by gathering seismic data in various regions of the state and other on-the-ground technical evaluations to better understand the subsurface geology.

“This report marks the very beginning of our work to determine if there are suitable places in Pennsylvania to store carbon dioxide underground,” Quigley said. “Using the geologic reservoirs we have beneath us offers the most promising means of permanently storing large volumes of carbon dioxide, which is needed to significantly reduce the commonwealth’s global warming emissions. To make a final determination on the suitability of any specific sequestration site, several years of advanced on-the-ground technical evaluation would be required.

Pennsylvania produces one percent of the planet’s greenhouse gases and has a responsibility to take meaningful action to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change,” Quigley said. “If we take that responsibility seriously, we have to find a way to burn coal as cleanly as possible, since we will be relying on it for many years to come. Capturing the carbon produced when generating electricity or during industrial activity and storing it underground could play a big role in confronting that challenge. If Pennsylvania can become a leader in the development of this technology, there is enormous opportunity to attract investment and jobs. We can reduce our emissions and expand our economy at the same time.”

In accordance with Act 129, the next steps for the study include a detailed evaluation of risks associated with sequestration. DCNR is gathering data for this evaluation, which will be conducted with the help of an independent expert. The next report is required to be submitted by Nov. 1.

    Christina Novak
    (717) 772-9101

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Source: newswire

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