The U.S. Department of Energy recently broke ground on a facility that will use $141 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to demonstrate the efficacy of the carbon capture and storage process.
The project, which will be constructed near the Archer Daniels Midland biofuels plant in Decatur, Illinois, is the first federally-funded, large-scale integrated carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project to move out of the construction phase. The announcement comes just a few weeks after American Electric Power abandoned its plans to build its $668 million CCS facility in New Haven, West Virginia.
The Illinois project will be designed to sequester approximately 2,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day in the saline Mount Simon Sandstone formation at depths of approximately 7,000 feet. Project officials claim that the sandstone formation can potentially store billions of tons of CO2 and has the overall potential to sequester all of the more than 250 million tons of CO2 produced each year by industry in the Illinois Basin region.
While this may be true, it’s hard to believe that sequestration is a preferable alternative to simply not producing the C02 in the first place.
The injected CO2 to be “eliminated” by the project comes from the byproduct from processing corn into fuel-grade ethanol at ADM’s adjacent biofuels plant; a practice that recently lost federal subsidies because it “pushes up food prices that disproportionately affect the poor and hungry of developing countries.”
Despite the controversy surrounding ethanol production, anything that helps to reduce carbon emissions in Illinois is a step in the right direction. The state has depended on coal-fired power for decades and has been the site of many protests concerning affects of this industry on human and environmental health.
“Illinois is at the forefront of helping ensure the US remains competitive in the global clean energy economy, creating new jobs while reducing carbon pollution,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a statement. “This first of its kind project will bring jobs to Illinois while advancing technology that the United States can sell around the world.”
In addition to providing a working demonstration of CCS technology, the project also calls for an educational and training facility, the National Sequestration Education Center, slated to be housed at nearby Richland Community College in Decatur. The center will contain classrooms, training and laboratory facilities, and it will offer students associate degrees in sequestration technology.
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