More than 10 months ago, a team of nine geologists spread across the mountains south of Craig and began gathering data critical to determining if the area would be suitable for an experimental process known as carbon sequestration.
Although those geologists left the area in the middle of the summer, their work is continuing into the winter months as part of the three-year project, which has recently been spurred by new information and plans to gather more geological readings, said Vince Matthews, director of the Colorado Geological Survey.
Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other sources are captured and injected into the ground.
The three-year research project is being done to see if sandstone reservoir rock formations thousands of feet underground can hold captured carbon dioxide, Matthews said.
The CGS geologists began their research in April 2010 and took 1,500 geological readings throughout an area of about 550 square miles south of Craig.
The project recently gained more information, which will help determine if the area will be suitable for holding carbon dioxide in saline aquifers thousands of feet under the ground, Matthews said.
Matthews said geologists have been mixing the data that was collected over the summer with readings from the oil and gas industry collected during the process of exploratory drilling.
The newest data, Matthews said, includes things like how deep the area of interest is and what properties the land has.
“We have been looking at all of the information that is available in these oil and gas wells in the area and analyzing that and making a variety of maps from that,” he said. “Then (we are) trying to integrate that information in the subsurface with surface measurements that were taken.”
A third source of data helping spur the project’s development are sets of seismic readings the CGS has purchased from private companies and reprocessed.
In a few weeks, Matthews said his organization would begin the process of conducting its own seismic data-gathering project on top of a site geologists are interested in drilling a testing well into.
The CGS will acquire three new seismic lines, each about four or five miles long and start readings in the mountains south of Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station.
The well, which will reach a depth of about 9,600 feet deep, should be drilled sometime after May so geologists can take core rock samples of the area, Matthews said.
“We will test the water in that well,” he said. “We will test all of the properties of the rock extensively and that will be put into a model that the modelers at the University of Utah will build to determine the feasibility, ultimately, of whether this is a suitable site or not.”
Although the feasibility of the project hangs on its final modeling stage, Matthews said the team hasn’t seen anything that would definitively rule the area out of the conversation for further sequestration.
That area, Matthews said, is a place where a good amount of carbon dioxide may need to be sequestered in the future.
“It is conceivable that if all works well, this could be a regional sequestration center,” he said. “That would hopefully make the industries that are here viable and make the new industries viable and conceivably even attract new industries that might need to emit CO2.”
Matthews also hopes the results of the project would help determine the chances of carbon sequestration in other areas in and out of the state.
Matthews said the CGS should have a final determination of the project’s feasibility by late 2012.
“But, we have got a long way to go before we say, ‘Hey, this looks like it could work,’” he said.
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