Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PA Plans Seismic Study to Sequester Carbon

"As part of the requirements of a 2008 state law that directed the state to investigate the viability of storing carbon dioxide underground, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Acting Secretary John Quigley today said the department will begin collecting seismic data throughout Pennsylvania in July.

“This is part of the evaluation of the geology of the state to determine if carbon dioxide can be sequestered underground, as one way to address our emissions that contribute to global warming,” Quigley said. “This project will allow scientists to develop a picture of the subsurface rocks as deep as 10,000 feet, so we can continue to refine the information we have about what areas might be suitable for geologic carbon sequestration and how carbon dioxide can be safely and permanently stored underground.”

Seismic data are generated by using vibrations to capture a two-dimensional picture of the rock layers beneath the surface. Interpretation of the data will allow scientists to estimate the type of material, its structure and its depth below the surface.

Collection of the data involves a few large trucks with “thumper” devices traveling slowly along public roadways. They thump the ground, and a cable with sensitive devices connected to it records the energy reflected back to the surface by the underlying geologic features.

DCNR’s Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey will oversee the project, with the field work to be performed by ARM Geophysics of Hershey.

The data collection activities will begin in July and probably run through September. A map of the areas that will be evaluated is a part of a fact sheet on seismic data collection on the DCNR website at, choose Carbon Sequestration under Hot Topics. DCNR is finalizing more exact locations, and will notify citizens and officials in affected communities weeks before the data collection begins. Data collection will likely start in western Pennsylvania.

DCNR will be gathering or acquiring existing data for 41 of the states 67 counties. They are: Adams, Armstrong, Bedford, Berks, Bradford, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Elk, Erie, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Indiana, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Westmoreland, Wyoming and York.

At the beginning of May, DCNR submitted a 149-page report to the Governor and General Assembly that contains detailed and technical information about the state’s geology. The report found that four potential geologic formations could be candidates for sequestration in the western and north central regions, although these formations are known to underlie most areas of the state.

A carbon sequestration network would involve first capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired electricity generating plants and other industrial sources. It would then be compressed into a liquid and cooled, and transported through pipelines to a sequestration site, where it would be injected into the rock formations or other suitable geologic features deep beneath the surface.

Detailed site evaluations involving several years of advanced scientific study would need to be performed at specific locations to make a final determination about whether they are suitable. Suitable formations have alternating layers of rocks of different types, some of which form barriers that prevent the stored carbon dioxide from moving upward.

“This intensive scientific work needs to be conducted with the highest degree of care, and DCNR has formed a Science Advisory Committee, composed of more than a dozen nationally-recognized experts in various aspects of the geologic storage of carbon dioxide,” Quigley said.

With representatives from Penn State University; the Kentucky, Illinois, and Texas Geological surveys; University of Regina (Canada); University of Pittsburgh; the U. S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory; West Virginia University; Carnegie Mellon University; and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the committee will bring diverse areas of expertise to bear on the DCNR's technical assessments.

“All indications are we will continue to rely on burning coal to produce electricity for the foreseeable future, so we need to do that in the cleanest way possible,” Quigley said. “Storing carbon dioxide underground can help us achieve that goal.”"

This is a reposting of a press release I received related to the sequestering of carbon dioxide in PA. Orginal press release can be found at

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