Moffat County Commission updated on carbon sequestration project |

Moffat County Commission updated on carbon sequestration project

Brian Smith

Peter Barkmann, right, a geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey, presents information Tuesday to the Moffat County Commission about a current project being conducted to study carbon sequestration in the area. Barkmann said the CGS will drill a test well in August to take core rock samples from about 9,600-feet underground to study whether carbon emissions from power plants could be sequestered south of the Craig Station power plant.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said there's a reason the commission is keeping the issue of carbon sequestration in its sights.

"If it works, it'll keep our coal industry alive," he said. "Because then, they can take the carbons that come out of the stacks and put it in the ground, and therefore coal is the cleanest burning energy out there."

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Mathers and commissioner Audrey Danner heard an update from Peter Barkmann of the Colorado Geological Survey on the progress of the carbon sequestration project and research occurring near Craig. Commissioner Tom Gray was absent.

Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other sources are captured and injected into the ground, Barkmann said.

The three-year research project is being done to see if sandstone reservoir rock formations thousands of feet underground can hold captured carbon dioxide.

The project is being funded by a $4.8 million grant, $1 million of which is being donated by various partners.

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"There is a very good setting here with the power plant, the coal mine and available lands, and a receptive community to do this," Barkmann said during his presentation to the commission.

The project started in April 2010 when a team of geologists took to the mountains surrounding Craig to gather data critical to determining if the area would be suitable for the experimental process, he said.

"The area had been mapped on a large regional scale but only with small areas in detail, and we really needed to improve on the detail of the geological mapping, particularly the geological structures, which are how these layers are folded and faulted to recognize what kind of traps might be there," Barkmann said.

The geologists also built a database, mapped the surface structure and purchased seismic data from the oil and gas industry to further their research.

Barkmann said the CGS has also announced it will be drilling a 9,600-foot test well into the ground a few miles south of Tri-State Generation & Transmission's Craig Station in August.

The test well will likely produce about 800 feet of core rock samples Barkmann said the CGS will use to see how it responds to the liquid carbon.

"(The test well is) close to where we will be doing this on a full-scale operation in the future," he said. "Again, the idea is to look at the samples of the material — we might not be at the perfect spot on the structure, but we need to see what these formations are like."

Once that and other data is collected and processed, he said a computer modeling program developed by the University of Utah will map the possible migration pathways of the carbon through the saline aquifers in the area.

"In the computer, they can inject a certain volume of carbon dioxide and start to see how it goes into the formation and see what the long-term migration might be once it is in the ground," he said.

The final results of the project will also be distributed throughout the area, including other states with similar geology and power-generating sources.

Barkmann also said another grant is pending approval for the project, which would allow geologists to physically test the well site by pumping commercially purchased carbon down into the formations in 2012.

"In this case, it is not feasible at this point to start capturing from the power plant," he said. "We are going to go out and buy commercially available carbon dioxide."

Even though Mathers said he thought the presentation and news of the test well were "great," he had questions about the feasibility of the project, particularly with its cost to coal-fired power plants.

However, he remains hopeful about the idea.

"It'd be wonderful if it works, but you keep hearing little things that make it sound like it's not going to work," he said. "But all in all, it is a government funded project of $4.8 million, and I'd certainly like to see some positive results come out of it to where it gives us a little bit of hope for coal."

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In other news:

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 2-0, electronic transactions and accounts payable for the Moffat County Department of Social Services totaling $327,920.93.

• Approved, 2-0, a bid recommendation for cleaning services of the Moffat County Courthouse and Colorado State University Extension Office to Lusandra Rowley totaling $39,000 for one year.

• Approved, 2-0, a county-owned airplane hanger lease at the Craig/Moffat Airport with Guy Whitlock and David LeBarron for $350 per month through April 30, 2014.

• Approved, 2-0, a bid from DC Pro Limb’n for Loudy-Simpson Park tree removal and clean up totaling $16,600.

• Reached general consensus to not move forward with a request to vacate a portion of Moffat County Road 222.

— Note: Tom Gray was absent.