University of South Carolina

USC receives $5 million grant to study CO2 storage

University of South Carolina researchers have received an additional $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to determine the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide deep underground as a way to curb the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The funding is in addition to the $4.9 million received last year from DOE for the three-year project, said principal investigator Dr. John Shafer, research professor and director of USC's Earth Sciences and Resources Institute, a division of the university's College of Arts and Sciences

USC’s project is one of 10 around the country being funded by DOE to determine whether carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas believed to be a culprit in climate change – can be safely stored in geologic formations, including underground reservoirs of salt water, also called deep saline formations. USC is focusing on the South Georgia Rift (SGR) basin, where deep saline formations exist beneath Colleton, Bamberg, Allendale, Dorchester and Orangeburg counties.

“The information gained from these projects will further DOE’s effort to develop a national assessment of CO2 storage capacity in deep geologic formations,” Shafer said. Shafer emphasized that no CO2 will actually be injected during this phase of the study.

For USC, the additional funding will allow researchers to expand their data acquisition and to drill deeper below the surface. The new grant will allow researchers to look more than 13,000 feet below land surface.

“The basin we are looking at is deep, so the deeper we can go through it, the higher the quality of our assessment. Then we will be able to determine, ‘Is this an appropriate environment’ ” for carbon dioxide storage, he said.

Based on preliminary assessments of geological and geophysical data, the presence of several igneous rock layers in the area may provide adequate seals to prevent upward migration of carbon dioxide into the Coastal Plain aquifer system, he said. CO2 comes from several sources, including coal-fired power plants and cement manufacturing plants. CO2 comes from several sources, including coal-fired power plants and cement manufacturing plants.

“Given the significant number of CO2 sources in the Southeastern U.S., particularly in southeastern South Carolina, and the positive geologic characteristics of the South Georgia Rift basin, we believe the SGR is a significant CO2 storage site that can be commercially developed,” Shafer said. “The possibility of storing CO2 deep underground in South Carolina holds promising opportunities for economic development and enhancement of a green economy in the state.”

USC’s effort is led by the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute and the department of earth and ocean sciences. Co-principal investigators are Dr. Michael Waddell of ESRI-SC and Drs. Camelia Knapp and James Knapp of earth and ocean sciences. Other members of the research team include the S.C. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois, Weatherford Laboratories of Houston and Bay Geophysical Inc. of Traverse City, Mich.

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 11/02/10 @ 4:20 PM | Updated: 11/03/10 @ 10:34 AM | Permalink