Kentucky Geolgical Survey Experimenting With Carbon Dioxide Storage

Mar 5, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - You've probably heard of the concerns many scientists have expressed about the effects of human-generated carbon dioxide on our planet's climate.  Electricity generating plants and other industries emit millions of tons of the gas into the atmosphere every year.  The Kentucky Geological Survey at UK has been doing research on ways to store captured carbon dioxide in deep formations under ground.  Mike Lynch reports.

The engine on a well rig in rural Johnson County starts up as rig workers prepare this natural gas well for a research project of the Kentucky Geological Survey. The target of the research is a shale formation containing natural gas more than 1200 feet below.

Survey geologist Brandon Nuttall says the project, which he oversees, will inject carbon dioxide into this well, which was provided by Crossrock Drilling. The intent is to force natural gas in the shale formation toward other wells located up to two thousand feet away.

Nuttall says this is the first time research has been done on enhancing shale gas recovery using carbon dioxide.  Getting more gas from the shale is a good idea because the use of natural gas has been on the rise, and because the amount of gas actually brought up through such wells—compared to how much is actually in the deep formations--is typically fairly low.

Rig workers assemble thirty-foot long sections of metal tubing into one long tube to insert into the well for injecting as much as 100 tons of carbon dioxide into the deep shale beneath this site. The gas-rich formation is about 800 feet thick.  The test will be conducted at relatively low pressures to prevent the creation of new fractures underground… but enough to potentially force gas toward the nearby monitoring wells.  Nuttall says careful monitoring of the underground pressure should be able to detect whether the experiment has an effect.

The Geological Survey has also conducted research on the permanent deep storage of carbon dioxide captured from industrial plants and electricity generating stations. That’s also a secondary goal of this project, according to Dave Harris, who heads the KGS Energy and Minerals Section.

The injected CO2 will be allowed to flow back out through the test well, and the researchers will measure the difference between the amount that was injected and the amount recovered.

This project is funded with a grant provided to the Kentucky Geological Survey through the Incentives for Energy Development and Independence Act, approved by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2007 and complements Governor Beshear’s 2008 7-point strategy for energy independence.

It may help to keep the state’s natural gas resources competitive in the long run. Along with other KGS research into carbon storage deep underground, it will help prepare the state for the possibility of a carbon-managed future--requiring that carbon dioxide emissions be captured and stored.