Coal seam carbon storage alternatives to be tested

February 11, 2013

Virginia Tech’s Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research is teaming with Consol Energy Inc. on exploring potential carbon storage alternatives to be conducted in Buchanan County, VA the university said in a press release.

The potential of unmineable coal seams as storage for carbon dioxide will be tested. The project between the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research and the Cecil Township, PA-based Consol Energy is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Consol Energy will donate the use of three coalbed methane wells in the pilot project to be conducted by Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering, part of the College of Engineering.

“We are pleased to be a part of this important research, which will serve to further define carbon storage alternatives and continue our collaborative efforts to develop clean coal technologies,” said Steve Winberg, vice president of Consol Energy’s research and development department.

Plans call for injecting and storing as much as 18 kt (20,000 st) of carbon dioxide into underlying coal seams this fall.

The injection will be performed during a one-year period and builds on a recently completed 907 t (1,000-st) injection test that took place in Russell County, VA in 2009. CNX Gas, the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, and National Energy Technology Laboratory also participated in that test.

For this current research program, a comprehensive plan to monitor injected carbon dioxide has been established by the Virginia Center for

Coal and Energy Research and National Energy Technology Laboratory to better understand the feasibility of carbon dioxide storage in unmineable coal seams and to explore the potential for enhanced coal bed methane recovery.

It is expected that the coal seam will adsorb the carbon dioxide and potentially release even more methane for collection and use, as occurred in the smaller scale test in Russell County. The current test is part of a larger effort funded by the National Energy Technology Laboratory for carbon capture, utilization and storage projects.

“The research will test the ability to inject carbon dioxide into coal seams that cannot be mined, as well as the potential to enhance coalbed methane recovery,” said Michael Karmis, the Stonie Barker Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech and director of the research center. “I must praise the tremendous cooperation of the gas operator, CONSOL Energy’s CNX Gas; and the mineral owner, Harrison-Wyatt LLC, whose generosity helps make this most important research possible.”

For this pilot test, the three existing coalbed methane wells will be converted for carbon dioxide injection, and three new wells will be drilled to monitor reservoir pressure, gas composition and the carbon dioxide’s path. The targeted coal seams are in the Pocahontas and Lee formations and range from 274 m to 670 m (900 ft to 2,200 ft) in depth and from 0.2 m to 0.7 m (0.7 ft to 2.5 ft) in thickness. 

“The results of this test will be vital to assess the potential of geologic storage in Appalachian coal seams as a safe and permanent method to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing coalbed methane recovery,” Karmis said.

The Buchanan County technical research site team is comprised of members from the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech; Cardno MM&A; CONSOL Energy’s research and development department; the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy; Southern States Energy Board; Gerald R. Hill Ph.D. Inc.; Geological Survey of Alabama; Sandia Technologies and Det Norske Veritas.


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