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Climate threats: MitigationBattelle completes 15-year CO2 storage project at Mountaineer Power Plant

Published 30 October 2017

One of the first tests for geologic storage of carbon dioxide at a commercial, coal-fired power plant has concluded, more than fifteen years after it began, completing a journey from an initial exploratory well to successful operations and site closure. The Mountaineer project helped establish the technical viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, and to store carbon dioxide in geologic layers with limited prior data.

One of the first tests for geologic storage of carbon dioxide at a commercial, coal-fired power plant has concluded, more than fifteen years after it began, completing a journey from an initial exploratory well to successful operations and site closure.

Battelle started the carbon capture and storage (CCS) research project at the American Electric Power (AEP) Mountaineer Plant in New Haven, West Virginia in 2002 with research funding from the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Based on the positive findings from the exploratory well drilling and seismic survey, AEP decided in 2007 to proceed with a 20 MW pilot test facility, with on-site CO2 capture, compression, transport, and injection.

Battelle was hired by AEP to continue providing the geologic storage expertise. Carbon dioxide was injected from 2009 to 2011 into two injection zones. This was followed by a post-injection monitoring and site closeout phase ending in 2017.

“The geologic storage program was essential for proving the carbon dioxide storage capacity, injectivity, and safe containment at a working power plant,” said Neeraj Gupta, Battelle Senior Research Leader. “It was the first CCS project at a working coal-fired power plant, it was funded primarily by private sources, it was a cradle-to-grave project, and we showed it could be done, especially in the Appalachian Basin region, which is so reliant on fossil fuels.”

Battelle says that the Mountaineer project helped establish the technical viability of CCS to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, and to store carbon dioxide in geologic layers with limited prior data. It addressed the science and field operation aspects, which are crucial for future deployment of the CCS technologies. The combination of field monitoring and modeling proved that the injected carbon dioxide stayed in a small region near the injection wells, as predicted by the models. This was instrumental in obtaining regulatory approvals to plug the wells and achieve site closure, following six years of post-injection monitoring. It also expanded the storage resource estimates of the Appalachian Basin region, with identification of new regional targets zones for geologic storage.

The collaboration between Battelle, AEP, and others led to many other geologic, engineering, field implementation, and regulatory lessons learned, with regional and global impact for CCS technology development and new knowledge for America’s carbon sequestration partnerships, such as the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerhsip.

Battelle notes that the project demonstrated the full life-cycle, from inception, characterization well-drilling to find suitable storage zones, reservoir analysis, integration with pilot-scale system for a CO­2 supply, injection, storage assessment, monitoring and final close-out. There were more than 200,000 hours of safe operations by Battelle staff and dozens of contractors.

Battelle also served as lead geologic storage contractor for the assessment of commercial scale-up, after a competitive selection process. As a part of this effort, Battelle drilled a new well two miles from the plant to confirm the continuity of storage horizons. 

“The Mountaineer project and the extensive work that was done from 2002 to 2017 was not only successful, but highly useful to learning first-hand about the implementation and operation of CCS under realistic conditions,” said Matt Usher, Director of New Technology Development & Policy Support for AEP. “We are pleased with the results and the strong relationships that this project forged with Battelle and all others involved.”