Australia has launched the first carbon sequestration project in the southern hemisphere using technology developed by researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE).
The Otway Basin Pilot Project will inject and monitor carbon dioxide (CO2) in a depleted gas field in south east Australia to demonstrate the feasibility of storing the greenhouse gas in the Waarre Formation of the Otway Basin, and similar formations worldwide, to fight global climate change.
The $36m Otway Basin Pilot Project is one of 19 sequestration projects endorsed by the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF), an international climate change initiative that focuses on the development of technologies to cost-effectively capture and sequester CO2.
The project is directed by Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC). Project partners include the DOE and a variety of other public and private organisations.
Up to 100,000 metric tons of CO2 will be injected more than a mile beneath the earth’s surface. A team of Australian, American, and other international researchers will monitor the storage reservoir before, during, and after the CO2 is injected. The injection process will span one to two years, while monitoring and modelling activities will last for several years beyond that.
The Otway Basin is said to be an excellent test site because it has a large source of natural CO2 and an abundance of now-depleted gas fields. Carbon dioxide will be produced from an existing well, then compressed to a supercritical state to more efficiently move and store it at a final location.
Once the CO2 has been transported and injected, comprehensive monitoring and verification will take place to demonstrate that long-term storage is viable.
Geological sequestration, or geosequestration, involves capturing carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere, compressing it, transporting it to a suitable site, and injecting it into deep geological formations where it will be trapped for thousands or millions of years
In research sponsored by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) developed the cutting-edge instrumentation that will be used to track the CO2 plume during and after the injection. Sophisticated seismic techniques will provide data about the location, migration, and permanent storage of the CO2 plume, which will be more than a mile deep.
Remote sensing is just one of several monitoring techniques LBNL researchers will deploy. Another technique is a unique formation well sampling method that taps the reservoir and delivers fluid samples to the surface for determination of CO2 content and geochemical analyses. Using geophysical, geochemical, and other reservoir data acquired during storage operations, the researchers will also be able to refine models to significantly increase the predictability of formations to permanently store CO2.