Ethanol producer begins pumping CO2 into giant saline aquifer, marking 12th North American CCS project

ADM’s agricultural processing and biofuels plant, Decatur, Illinois. Image: U.S. Department of Energy

An Illinois corn ethanol producer has begun pumping its produced CO2 into the Mt. Simon Sandstone in the Illinois Basin, one of the largest saline aquifers in the world, as part of a demonstration project with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Led by the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), an agricultural processor and food ingredient provider, the project is demonstrating an integrated system for collecting CO2 from an ethanol production plant for geological storage in a sandstone reservoir more than two kilometres underground. The CO2 is a byproduct from processing corn into fuel-grade ethanol through biological fermentation.

The project marks the first large-scale application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) on biofuels production in the world and the 12th large-scale CCS facility in North America. Similar capture and storage projects have been commissioned in recent years at Shell Canada’s Quest project in Alberta—capturing CO2 from an oilsands refinery—and Sask Power’s retrofitted Boundary Dam coal fired power plant.

Jeff Erikson, general manager of the Americas region with the Global CCS Institute, noted, “2017 is a watershed year for carbon capture in the United States. On the heels of the successful opening of Petra Nova in Texas, the Illinois Industrial facility serves as another example that large-scale CCS deployment works, is safe and serves as a key component of a low carbon future.”

“The technology that we are using in Decatur can be a model for reducing industrial carbon emissions around the world,” added Todd Werpy, ADM chief technology officer, in a statement announcing the project startup on Friday.

The Illinois Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) project, in Decatur, Illinois, received a US$141 million investment from DOE, matched by over US$66 million in private sector cost share.

While the project can store approximately one million tonnes of CO2 per year, researchers estimate that the sandstone formation can potentially store more than 250 million tonnes of produced CO2 each year. ICCS is currently permitted to operate for five years.

Nearly 50 years of successful natural gas storage in the Mt. Simon Sandstone indicates that the saline reservoir and overlying seals should effectively contain stored CO2.

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