Exploring new approaches to
storing carbon dioxide
Everyday all over the world, scientists, legislators and corporate officers are talking about using less carbon - which is emitted into our atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2) gas - or finding ways to safely store it, and developing more efficient and cleaner energy. For Kent State University Geology graduate student, Julie Gouin, it is the focus of her career.
This past summer, Gouin joined an elite group of researchers and students from other prestigious institutions to explore several approaches to capturing carbon dioxide, a common byproduct of manufacturing and burning of fossil fuels; and storing it underground, partially preventing the CO2 emissions that can pollute our atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
Gouin, a graduate student at Kent State University seeking a Master’s degree in Geology, was one of twenty-seven students chosen out of several hundred applicants, to participate in the Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS) program studying the process of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). Since then, she and several other students have formed an international student-run organization, the Inter-University Student Initiative in Carbon Sequestration (ISICS), creating a forum for graduate students (and young professionals) in various areas of CCS to exchange ideas, discuss their research, and promote inter-university collaboration.
Carbon Capture and Sequestration is a process in which carbon emissions are driven into oil and gas reservoirs or dead wells. Inside the wells and reservoirs the high pressure causes the carbon to remain in liquid phase, allowing for large quantities to be stored safely in the formation. These structures have stored crude oil, natural gas, brine and CO2 over millions of years. Many power plants and other large emitters of CO2 are located near geologic formations that are amenable to CO2 storage. In many cases, injection of CO2 into a geologic formation can enhance the recovery of hydrocarbons, providing value-added byproducts that can offset the cost of CO2 capture and sequestration. Production from an oil or natural gas reservoir may be enhanced by pumping CO2 gas into the reservoir to push out the product, which is called enhanced oil recovery.
The RECS program, funded by the Department of Energy and the National Energy Technology Lab, among others, gave students and young professionals the opportunity to participate in a ten-day field study (from July 18-28, 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) using new methods for dealing with C02 emissions. The RECS program finds Masters, PhD, and young professionals who are starting to work with Carbon Capture and Sequestration. The program has individuals from all walks of life, including geologists, economists, chemical engineers, and thermal engineers. “This allows for a better view on different topics presented,” Gouin said.
“I was thrilled to see that Julie was selected along with others who had backgrounds from Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and Berkley,” Gouin’s advisor, Geology Professor Joseph Ortiz said.
Gouin isn’t necessarily new to this field of work. After earning her bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Akron in 2008, she attended a field camp through the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Taskesti, Turkey and completed an honors research project on tidalites in Ohio. She now is working at Matheson Tri-Gas in Twinsburg, Ohio measuring gasses for EPA Acid Rain Mixtures used as standards for evaluating power plants emissions. In 2009, she enrolled in the Geology graduate program, under Dr. Ortiz, at Kent State University and is now seeking a Master’s degree in geology with an emphasis on environmental geology.
“This is important work to address because of the challenges we face as a result of C02 greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere,” Ortiz said. “Julie’s got a unique background, (coming from industry and dealing with compliance) that ties in nicely with the problem that she’s selected. It is a great applied science approach.”
“Carbon Sequestration will help mitigate carbon emissions into the air from industry, mostly from coal-fired plants. The equipment can be easily added to a new power plant or retrofitted to an older plant. The CCS process will buy time for more efficient environmentally friendly energy to be further developed such as wind, solar, or hydroelectric power,” Gouin explained.
Gouin intends to write her Master’s thesis on C02 storage in Northeast Ohio. She plans to finish collecting information on the Clinton Sandstone, the formation she is studying, and complete her data analysis this summer. The Clinton Sandstone in the Canton Oil Field was injected with a test injection of C02 for twenty hours back in 2008. It was found that the well had a 58% increase in oil production after the C02 was deposited into it. She said that she would eventually like to expand her research to Ashtabula County, where the Clinton Formation contains natural gas instead of oil.
“I am correlating geophysical well logs across the county from seven natural gas wells previously drilled to see how the Clinton varies across the county” Gouin said. After her data is analyzed, the Ohio Division of Natural Resources and the Ohio Geological Survey will be able to use this in part to determine the suitability of the formation for C02 injection.A note to students: If you are interested in carbon dioxide sequestration research and the ISICS group, please contact Julie Gouin, firstname.lastname@example.org.