A federal grant of nearly $5 million has been awarded to a collaborative effort of Kansas entities, including two Wichita businesses, to study the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide underground.
The project will also look at using CO2 to enhance oil and gas recovery.
The Kansas Geological Survey is leading the three-year study that will be conducted in the Wellington oil and gas field in Sumner County.
Carbon sequestration is a geoengineering technique that's in its early stages of use. The purpose is to help remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by safely storing CO2 from such industrial sources as electric, cement, ethanol and fertilizer plants.
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A second prong of the study is to further research using CO2 to enhance oil and gas recovery from areas where it can't be extracted by other traditional means.
"We're interested in making something that the local oil and gas industry can use as a business model," said KGS geologist Lynn Watney.
He said the study is expected to begin in December.
Two Wichita companies, Berexco and Bittersweet Energy, will take part in the project. Berexco will provide the field crew and engineers. Bittersweet will do the data gathering.
Also involved are the geology departments at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.
The Department of Energy awarded the grant, using money from the federal stimulus package.
No CO2 will be injected into the ground. The injection will be a computerized simulation, Watney said.
The Wellington study will be much larger than a pilot project conducted earlier this decade near Russell, Watney said.
Pending federal legislation dealing with reducing the carbon footprint is one of the driving forces behind such studies.
"But regardless of whether you think CO2 contributes to global warming, just look at the economic impact of this," said Martin Dubois, referring to using CO2 to increase oil and gas production.
Dubois is vice president of Cap CO2, a Wichita company that looks for ways to use industrial sources of carbon dioxide.
He said Kansas needs to "get out in front" on both storing and utilizing CO2 for recovery.
"The oil industry is going to do it, whether Kansas does or not," Dubois said. "The Kansas industry typically takes a conservative approach, which is good.
"We tend not to be leaders in things. But we at least need to position ourselves to be fast followers."
Looking at the cost of using CO2 in a liquefied form to enhance oil and recovery is part of the study.
"We feel it's going to be quite cost-effective," Watney said.
It costs $50 to process one ton of CO2 and put it in the ground, Dubois said, and it takes one ton of CO2 to produce three barrels of oil.
"If oil is at $60 per barrel," he said, "you can make money (using CO2 to enhance recovery)."
The study will also look at the suitability of the Ozark Plateau Aquifer System for storing CO2 in a 17-county area.
The aquifer, which is 4,000 feet beneath the surface, is high in saline water. The water is not usable for other purposes and is isolated from shallower freshwater aquifers by impermeable rock units, according to the KGS.
Watney said the Wellington study is one of eight or 10 similar federally funded projects being done nationally.
He said the results will be shared with the public and the oil and gas industry.