Construction of USA’s first large-scale industrial carbon capture and storage facility begins


August 29, 2011

The drilling of an injection well in Decatur, Illinois that will be part of the first large-scale ICCS facility in the U.S. (Image: MGSC)

The drilling of an injection well in Decatur, Illinois that will be part of the first large-scale ICCS facility in the U.S. (Image: MGSC)

While some see carbon capture and storage as akin to sweeping CO2 emissions under the carpet, others believe it is a necessary short-term solution in the transition to a clean energy future. Last week, ground was broken on construction of the U.S.'s first large-scale industrial carbon capture and storage (ICCS) facility that aims to demonstrate that CO2 emissions can be stored permanently in deep underground rock formations.

The facility being built in Decatur, Illinois, is designed to capture and store approximately 2,500 metric tons of CO2 per day in the saline Mount Simon Sandstone formation at depths of around 7,000 feet (2,133 m). Researchers estimate that the sandstone formation has the potential to store billions of tons of CO2 and has the overall potential to sequester all of the more than 250 million tons of CO2 produced each year by industry in the Illinois Basin region.

The CO2 to be sequestered is a byproduct of processing corn into fuel-grade ethanol at a biofuels plant adjacent to the storage site run by Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), which is leading the project as part of the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC). All of the captured CO2 will be produced by biologic fermentation and will give the facility a negative carbon footprint.

Drilling of an injection well at the 207-acre project site began in February 2009 and last week's ceremonial groundbreaking and marked the next step of the project, which will see a CO2 dehydration/compression facility constructed near the biofuels plant along with a 3,200-foot-long (975 m) pipeline that will transport the CO2 to the well. Carbon capture and storage operations are due to commence in late summer 2013.

The ADM team, which includes Schlumberger Carbon Services, the Illinois State Geological Survey, and Richland Community College, was selected in October 2009 by the DoE to conduct one of 12 projects in Phase 1 of its ICCS program. The DoE then selected it as one of three projects to receive continued Phase 2 funding in June 2010. The project is managed by the DoE's National Energy Technology Laboratory, which received US$141 million in Recovery Act funding and another $65.5 million private sector cost-sharing.

"Illinois is at the forefront of helping ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global clean energy economy, creating new jobs while reducing carbon pollution," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This first of its kind project will bring jobs to Illinois while advancing technology that the United States can sell around the world."

The project will also see the formation of an educational and training facility called the National Sequestration Education Center, which is slated to be housed at nearby Richland Community College in Decatur. The center will contain classrooms, training, and laboratory facilities, and will offer students associate degrees in sequestration technology.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

This is the same Steven Chu that decided we should paint all of our roofs white and no longer allow black cars.

This is why the Department of Energy needs to be simply removed from the Federal budget. More pure useless pork at the cost of legitimate science research with real issues (like cancer) that deserve your dollars.

$141 million in stimulus funding. Just great. At least they\'re corect that it\'s creating \'green jobs\' for handpicked cronies. But it\'s no longer 2006, and fortunately more people are aware that this is real money, taken not only from our pockets but the Chinese govt\'s - plus compounding interest.

Todd Dunning

I couldn\'t agree with you more Todd Dunning.

Derek Howe

Maybe we\'ll be able to get the power back out of the ground using little turbines on the well heads when we look back at AGW the same way we look at Madoff, and Piltdown man.


Lets see here, we have an Illinois (wink, wink) university and a multi-billion dollar corporation getting millions (billions?) of tax dollars to turn food into an inefficient, corrosive fuel, now building an underground storage facility they can use to hide their highly toxic waste, all under the guise of sequestering carbon to \"save the planet\" from global warming that has now been PROVEN not to be caused by carbon in the atmosphere.

I think this article may have just set a new record for journalistic, legislative, scientific and economic FAIL.

Mark Petereit

as much as i love the DOE, even steven chu admitted most of his job is preoccupied with the DOE\'s primary mission of NUCLEAR FUEL AND WEAPONS SECURITY.

this is probably the best explanation as to why the DOE\'s efforts to engage in alternative energy research have been such objective failures. unlike Darpa, the DOE has not had any good investments. sadly, beauracratic disentanglement seems impossible, and thus we must be resigned to seeing tax dollars wasted on nonsense like carbon sequestration, which ranks among other projects such as sulphurizing the air, salting the ocean with iron, and a few other insane projects that have had government subsidies on behalf of global warming mitigation projects.

it is truly sad to see the government so bloated with money and so void of common sense that no one could veto projects like this. carbon sequestration ranks amongst other projects such as salting the ocean with iron, researching the possibility of sulphurizing and dusting the atmosphere to reflect back radiation out of the atmosphere.

how can you pollute the environment in the name of saving the environment? this is the kind if insane thinking you\'d expect out of a remorseless coal corporation, but instead you get global warming alarmists doing this stuff. as a traditional environmentalist, i find this astounding, and along with the nonstop calls for cap and trade , for the benefit of wall street and nothing else, as well as calls for carbon taxes, which would NOT stop pollution by any stretch of the imagination and are only designed to bankrupt corporation by putting their money in governments\' purse.

if you want to stop coal mining , i won\'t accept taxing it. you must simply ban it in some places and or shut down plants.

no more policy by taxing corporation which just pass the cost on too consumers.

real policy requires command regulation, not complex regulatory and tax schemes.

Facebook User

Now Al Gore can start trading in green house credits . . . the big phony!

David Sloan

Todd Dunning: what\'s wrong with white roofs? they may not look as good as black roofs, but they should reflect an awful lot of heat that would otherwise be added to your cooling bill.


What? No pro-AGW voices? I\'m SHOCKED! SHOCKED, I tell you! As much grief as I get over posting anti-AGW articles on my facebook and googleplus pages, I expected far more pro-AGW voices here.

I guess people are figuring THAT one out....

Green Energy? no such a ALL has a \'problem\' if you\'re concerned about that.

CO2? It\'s not the problem....

...technically - slightly interesting. Politically and Financially? This is a boondoggle....

James Dugan

Anything ever considered waste turns out to be a resource that is simply at the wrong place or time. I hope this means of storing carbon allows it to be retrieved for use when desired.



what\'s needed next is to process the carbon dioxide into useful carbon fibre, to manufacture products directly from that using an upgraded 3D printing process.

Finding a use for the oxygen would probably be the easier part.

Mass production out of thin air?

999 HOT
The facility being built in Decatur, Illinois, is designed to capture and store approximately 2,500 metric tons of CO2 per day in the saline Mount Simon Sandstone formation at depths of around 7,000 feet (2,133 m). Researchers estimate that the sandstone formation has the potential to store billions of tons of CO2 and has the overall potential to sequester all of the more than 250 million tons of CO2 produced each year by industry in the Illinois Basin region.

For starters, 2,500 metric tons of CO2 is an square area the size of a football field about 830 ft. tall. 830 ft. tall is 8.3 football fields in length. And this much spacial area of daily CO2 off-gassing from ADM batch fermenting of corn kernels is supposed to go effortlessly into a sandstone formation and stay there? 

At what pressure will this CO2 be pumped underground? I'm guessing 10,000 psi here as is commonly done for water re-injection wells beneath coal-bed methane formations.

If it takes several thousand pounds per square inch of pressure to place CO2 into sandstone formations - don't think that this CO2 greenhouse gas will stay put there. These kinds of pressures will want to naturally equalize and reach some sort of equilibrium. I'd expect that pressurized CO2 will soon find cracks, crannies and fissures to migrate back towards the surface.

Please understand that CO2 gas is colorless, odorless, has no taste and it is heavier than air. CO2 will displace air. The liquid form of CO2 is carbonated beer fizz which is added to soda pop. Frozen CO2 is dry ice.

If gaseous CO2 migrates back to the earth's surface after being temporarily sequestered, it will find valleys or ravines or river drainages to flow into, displacing ambient air. You could then walk into such low-lying areas and simply drown in CO2 if the wind were not blowing. You'd suffocate, collapse and die an easy, yet unplanned death. This is a very real problem with CO2 sequestration into below ground geologic strata. I doubt that it will work - and I'm not discussing costs nor new green jobs thus created.

Citizens and politicians do NOT adequately understand basic chemistry nor do they understand pressurized mediums like injection wells. While most politicians would be familiar with beer fizz, champagne bubbles or the carbonated fizz in soda pop - these elected representatives are NOT familiar with the gaseous variety of CO2. And it is also evident that Politicians are NOT familiar with the greenhouse effect of CO2 emissions causing climate change phenomena.

There are OTHER beneficial uses for this volume of CO2 which is naturally fermented each and every day via a very inefficient ethanol batch processing of corn kernels using acidic enzymes to convert corn starch into pentose and hexose sugars to then further ferment with yeasty biobugs into a 10 or 11% beer solution which needs expensive distillation and molecular-sieving to create anhydrous (water free) ethyl alcohol.

Ethanol is a good fuel. It is water soluble, biodegradable and oil soluble. Because ethanol is water soluble is exactly why it is also biodegradable, unlike crude oil or refinery distillates such as gasoline, jet fuel and diesel which all float upon water bodies. Ethanol, unlike oil - is a very polar molecule. It is attracted to and seamlessly splash blends into gasoline and other petroleum-derived fossil fuels just as it easily dilutes into water. 

Most adults have some experience in diluting beer, wine, whiskey, gin or tequila with water and ice cubes. Same people have witnessed edible olive oil phase separating from acid-water vinegar in a simple salad dressing. This is the 'polarity' difference which just one new and magic oxygen atom can impart to float-on-water oils or the same effect with unburned oils which we see and breathe as brown urban smog - simply an oil spill in the sky here. Ethanol works to improve combustion performance while decreasing airborne emissions. Too bad that fermenting corn kernels as ADM does isn't the best way to manufacture fuel-grade alcohols...

What the ethanol does to improve emissions profiles is exactly why oxygenates have been mandated into gasoline supplies by the Federal Clean Air Act for so long - simply because they DO indeed work. 

Even MTBE functioned to reduce exhaust emissions. Yet MTBE while water soluble, as a tertiary-bonded ether molecule, it would not biodegrade and persisted when inadvertently exposed to water bodies. MTBE was the oilman's substitute oxygenate - it has been discontinued after formerly being allowed into the transportation fuel pool for 25 years. Now, fermented corn ethanol has grown 7x its former volumes in just this past decade alone - and with this growth, food vs: fuel issues have spiked including the price of meat, bread, eggs, tortillas, etc.

The process of batch fermenting ethanol isn't very efficient while off-gassing copious amounts of CO2. Congress really needs to study the NEW Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011 (OFS) bill (pending) which would mandate $35 FFV chips to be installed on new cars being manufactured in the U.S. or imported into this country.

The simple FFV chip thus allows internal combustion engines to combust E-85 all the way down to E-10 or to operate on pure gasoline only. The FFV chip operates with an oxygen sensor - all alcohols feature an oxygen atom in their makeup, whereas gasoline and other hydrocarbon fossil fuels do not contain this oxygen element. The FFV chip first programs automatic adjustments to air/fuel ratios at the fuel injectors. The FFV chip then automatically advances spark ignition for the for alcohol blends and retards the spark ignition back down for gasoline only combustion.

This 30 yr. old piece of electronic FFV (flex-fuel) hardware has been in use in Brazil for decades. The Open Fuel Standard simply mandates that this FFV chip be installed in new American cars. And this FFV chip would seamlessly provide motorists with some flexibility in fuel choice.

Last: This new FFV chip should be programmed to also include other alcohols beyond C2 ethanol such as C1 methanol or new up-and-coming C1-C10 higher mixed alcohol blends of ENVIROLENE®.


Ah Slowburn-the theory of AGW has survived for nearly 200 years-in spite of the vociferous efforts of Corporate Tools. I take it, then, that tropical storms are "normal" in New York & Vermont? As to this project, what a complete waste of time & money. Everyone knows that the best way to sequester carbon dioxide is biologically-most notably in high density algae growth chambers. Given the numerous uses to which the algae can be put (fertilizer, animal feed, bio-fuel, bio-plastics) its got to be more cost effective than just burying it underground. No doubt the fossil fuel industries want to avoid that kind of competition, so engage in Green-washing instead!


Ahhhh HAHAHAHAHA! ONLY in America....I HOPE

The world HAS gone absolutely stir crazy. Everything I read in MAD magazines as a kid is coming true. This is hilarious..a FARCE beyond ALL farces! So what's next? OXYGEN is destroying the planet? We've already heard that NITROGEN is bad. Hell,that only makes up 70% of the AIR we breathe!

Am I the only one seeing the ABSURDITY of all this?????


Everything is a RESOURCE to be capitalised upon. As to why the CO2 is being DUMPED, is beyond me. Strip the O out and you have carbon - genuinely useful stuff. Grows good trees I'm told.

Mr Stiffy


I don\'t know where you are coming from with the \"theory of AGW has survived for nearly 200 years\" I don\'t recall that being the case. Actually I recall reading in 1975 about the coming Mini-Iceage scientists were worried about.

I would just like an explanation from someone why the earth\'s temperatures were warmer during the timeframe of approximately 800-1200 AD than they are now, causing a boon time in world agriculture and population, when Greenland was actually green and grapes grew in London. Then it got cold again.

Possibly it was those naughty Vikings running amuck and being completely irresponsible with their chlorofluorocarbons, etc...

Seriously though, Climate Change is redundant. It is what climates do...change. If our climate stops changing then we really do have a problem.

I agree with you on the gross stupidity of trying to bury CO2 (which is not a poison) though I disagree with the finger pointing at the \"fossil fuel industries\" they have plenty of business for the years to come and many are investing in alternative methods of energy. There is not a conspiracy other than the fact that they want to preserve their profits going forward like all good businesses.

There is plenty of crude still available, though if you listen to the right pundits we ran out back in the 1990s, the 2000s, the 2010s eventually they will be right. We do need to drill for it though. We have come a long way and have done great things to clean up how we live.

Read Super Freakonomics for a fabulous rundown on this and other topics from some disinterested, quite bright individuals.

Perhaps we should each exhale into canisters which could scrub the CO2 from our breath. Then we could drop our dirty, poisonous canisters off, where they would pump it all down hole, and we could pick up new ones!

Dr. Veritas

Conspiracy theory for the day: Abiogenic fossil fuel production is real, and \'fracking\', along with this \'CO2 storage\' idea are ways to produce natural gas and oil straight from the bedrock.

But really, the AGW argument is done, the people are beginning to realize they\'ve been duped, so efforts such as this \'greenhouse gas storage\' facility must have an alterior motive, which is basically political. This is literally how you pour money into a bottomless pit - except a handful of individuals will get rich from it.

Why can\'t we just plant some more trees?? Wood = stored carbon.


Overwhelmingly, the posts on this subject are against Cap & Trade, global warming, carbon sequestering, carbon credits, etc. They all are designed to make it extra hard for modern, industrialized nations to continue to thrive. Are we to believe that we need to pay for the sins of past success? I don\'t think so! And on the subject of paying, where does all the money go? After the few get rich, most of it supposedly goes to poorer nations. I\"m not against helping poor peoples but this goes waaaay beyond that. This is designed to be the great equalizer and is socialism on a world wide scale. Not all nations are falling for this trick either. China, for one has and still is building factories, dams, housing, etc and has been industrializing on a massive scale with no pollution controls what so ever! The world should focus on eliminating REAL pollutions like the wholesale dumping of plastic trash into our oceans. That plus overfishing is killing all marine animals and don\'t think those pollutants are not working their way up the food chain! I\'ve said too much but it surely is a shame that the powers that be focus on this phony stuff and ignore real pollution!

Will, the tink

OK, this might be a good thing in the long run... But with our economy being as bad as it is, arent there a lot of other things that this kind of funding could have covered??? No wonder the country is in the state that it is in these days!!

Brian Tomilson
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