Pennsylvania DCNR to Begin Collecting Seismic Data During Second Week of August

July 29, 2009

Findings Could Help Find Sites Where Carbon Dioxide Could be Stored Underground

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — To comply with a 2008 law that directed the state to investigate the viability of storing carbon dioxide underground, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will begin collecting seismic data in Indiana and Westmoreland counties during the second week of August.

“Our initial review of data already available showed that four geologic formations that underlie most of the state show potential for storing carbon underground,” acting Secretary John Quigley said. “Collecting more detailed seismic information will give us a clearer picture of what lies beneath the ground to help us further refine the geologic formations that might be suitable to safely and permanently store carbon dioxide.”

Sequestering carbon dioxide in geologic formations is one option in addressing pollution that contributes to global warming.

Seismic data are generated by using vibrations to capture a two-dimensional picture of the rock layers beneath the surface. Interpretation of the data will allow scientists to estimate the type of material, its structure and its depth below the surface.

“Our schedule for beginning seismic data collection will begin in Indiana and Westmoreland counties, move to Schuylkill County and then on to the Lancaster area,” Quigley said. “We also are acquiring some already existing seismic data for Lackawanna, Lycoming, Monroe and Wyoming counties.”

Collection of the data involves a few large trucks with “thumper” devices traveling slowly along public roadways. When they thump the ground, specialized equipment records the energy reflected back to the surface by the underlying geologic features.

In Indiana County, the trucks will work along roads in Armstrong, Blacklick, Center, Conemaugh and Young townships, and in Derry and Loyalhanna townships in Westmoreland County. The routes in Schuylkill and Lancaster counties are still being finalized. The work is expected to be conducted in those counties in September.

DCNR’s Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey will oversee the project, with the field work to be performed by ARM Geophysics of Hershey.

DCNR is notifying citizens and officials in affected communities by letter weeks before the data collection begins.

A map of the areas that will be evaluated is a part of a fact sheet on seismic data collection on the DCNR website at www.dcnr.state.pa.us, choose “Carbon Sequestration” under “Hot Topics.”

In May, DCNR submitted a 149-page report to the Governor and General Assembly that contained detailed and technical information about the state’s geology. 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.

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.

Detailed site evaluations involving several years of advanced scientific study 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 prevent the stored carbon dioxide from moving upward.

“Because this intensive scientific work needs to be conducted with the highest degree of care, DCNR has formed a Science Advisory Committee composed of more than a dozen nationally-recognized experts in various aspects of the geologic storage of carbon dioxide,” Quigley said.

With representatives from Penn State University; the Kentucky, Illinois, and Texas Geological surveys; University of Regina (Canada); University of Pittsburgh; the U. S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory; West Virginia University; Carnegie Mellon University; and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the committee will bring diverse areas of expertise to bear on the DCNR’s technical assessments.

“All indications are we will continue to rely on burning coal to produce electricity for the foreseeable future, so we need to do that in the cleanest way possible,” Quigley said. “Storing carbon dioxide underground can help us achieve that goal.”

CONTACT: Christina Novak, (717) 772-9101

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Source: newswire

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