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Idaho National Laboratory

Science & Technology
Carbon Sequestration

On February 14, 2002, President Bush announced the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) with the goal of significantly reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy over the next 10 years. Roughly one-third of the current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants, oil refineries, and other large point sources. This initiative encourages development investments to provide scientifically justified decisions to sequester carbon in deep geologic formations.

As part of this effort, the Carbon Sequestration Program has performed an analysis of the role that carbon capture and storage can play in helping the U.S. and the world to stabilize and eventually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis shows that carbon sequestration can have a significant impact as compared to other technologies.

INL has been formally involved in carbon sequestration activities since 2003, when the Laboratory became part of the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP). Researchers at INL were able to leverage their vast experience in basalt-hosted aquifer studies to bring a reactive rock reservoir potential to DOE sequestration program. Additionally, INL has been involved in the formation and management of the Governor's Idaho Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee, which has been established to set policy and regulations for carbon dioxide management in the state of Idaho. As part of the BSCSP, INL has recently been awarded funding to participate in the program's phase two activities. The main emphasis of this phase of the program is a large scale injection test to be completed in the vast basalt formations of the Pacific Northwest.

It is expected that the U.S. will follow Europe's example and move to a carbon constrained economy. If this comes to fruition, there is a significant need for research and development to find cost-effective strategies for CO2 capture and sequestration. As a result, DOE has invested resources in research in this area. A strong focus of this carbon sequestration research program is the direct capture of CO2 emissions from large point sources and subsequent storage in geologic formations. Large point sources, such as power plants, oil refineries, and industrial processes, are often located proximal to geologic formations capable of sequestering large volumes of CO2. Analysis by the BSCSP indicates that the Western United States, specifically Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, will be the location of new power generation facilities needed to meet exploding electrical demand. However, in a carbon constrained economy, something will need to be done to restrict the release of CO2 to the atmosphere. The characterization of potential CO2 sinks, and the work needed to be done to reduce the cost of CO2 capture and transportation, represents a significant opportunity for INL scientists and engineers.

Richard Rankin, (208) 526-3049,