Prairie Research Institute Receives Major Grants for Geologic Carbon Storage Research

A verification well monitors the storage of CO2 near Decatur, Ill.

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) was awarded two projects totaling $10.1 million Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Department's CarbonSAFE R&D program to develop technologies to mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Including cost share, total funding for the two projects is more than $12.6 million.

ISGS, a division of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was awarded funds to evaluate the feasibility of commercial-scale (50+ million metric tons) geological storage of industrially sourced CO2 ($8.9 million). This project builds on the internationally recognized project of the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (led by ISGS) to store one million tons of this greenhouse gas in the Mt. Simon Formation 7,000 feet beneath the Archer Daniels Midland facility in Decatur, Ill.

ISGS received an additional $1.2 million for a pre-feasibility study to evaluate challenges, opportunities, and risks involved in building a commercial, integrated carbon storage project at another site, the Illinois East Sub-Basin region in east central Illinois.

DOE awarded16 grants totaling more than $44 million nationwide under its CarbonSAFE initiative (Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise). Three were for commercial-scale feasibility studies (Phase II) and 13 were for initial, pre-feasibility studies (Phase I) of the potential of additional geologic formations for permanent carbon storage.

Both ISGS projects will expand the understanding of the potential for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Illinois by collecting new geological, geophysical, geochemical, geomechanical and hydrogeological data from the Mt. Simon Formation. Mt. Simon, a sandstone formation, is the most important carbon sink available for the storage of CO2 in the heavily industrialized Midwest of the United States. 

 “The new CarbonSAFE projects will build on more than 15 years of extensive carbon storage research at the ISGS,” said Steven Whittaker, ISGS’s director of energy research and development and principal investigator for the Mt. Simon project. “These projects will make the Mt. Simon Sandstone and the Illinois Basin one of the most intensively studied settings for geologic storage in the world.”

The work is essential for demonstrating the viability of large-scale storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and could provide Illinois with an advantage in job training and technology deployment. More generally this work will improve best practices in advancing CCS issues and technology.

Partners on the projects are PRI’s Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Richland Community College, the Indiana Geological Survey, Schlumberger Carbon Services, Industrial Economics Incorporated, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Brigham Young University, Trimeric Corporation, and the University of Wyoming.

The DOE CarbonSAFE announcement is available here.