Kansas University’s Kansas Geological Survey has received an $11.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to test the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide underground in south-central Kansas.
The greenhouse gas will be captured from the Abengoa Bioenergy Corp. plant near Colwich and will be transported by truck to an injection well in the Wellington oil field south of Wichita in Sumner County. About 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be used to enhance oil recovery in a well, and an additional 40,000 metric tons will be compressed and injected into the lower portion of the Arbuckle saline aquifer.
The water in the aquifer is too salty for human consumption and is separated from freshwater aquifers by thousands of feet of rock.
Both uses could be a boon to the local and state economy, said Lynn Watney, a senior scientific fellow at the Kansas Geological Survey. He is the grant’s lead investigator, along with fellow KGS geologist Jason Rush.
Watney said the enhanced oil recovery process, which has been done in Texas for years and tested in an oil field near Russell, could yield 20 percent to 25 percent more oil than traditional methods. The carbon sequestration in the aquifer is a newer process, though, and the project will work with industry partners to measure and collect data to determine its effectiveness.
“We’re basically on the leading edge — some might say the bleeding edge — of what’s practical, what is essential and what can be effectively monitored,” he said.
The latest grant takes the total amount of Department of Energy funds devoted to the Kansas Geological Survey’s carbon sequestration research to about $23 million.
Rush said the carbon sequestration could have additional economic benefits for the state if cap-and-trade legislation ever gains approval.
“The main thing is we don’t want to be behind the curve,” Rush said. “If carbon trading does come down as legislation at some point, that could be an economic benefit for Kansas.”
The project is scheduled to run over a period of about three or four years, Rush said, and is really a small-scale pilot project.
He said the total amount of carbon dioxide that will be injected represents a “fraction of a percent” of the capacity of the space that could be used in the oil field and the aquifer.