Decatur ethanol production project showing success for carbon capture-storage (CCS) technology

CO2 compressor at ADM's Decatur, Illinois ethanol CCS facility. Photo: ADM.

CO2 compressor at ADM’s Decatur, Illinois ethanol CCS facility. Photo: ADM.

Decatur, Illinois — Efforts to demonstrate the effectiveness of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a means of reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions seem to be achieving success in an Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) ethanol production project based in Decatur.

According to a March 21st report in the Decatur Herald-Review, the project seems to be on target, with the “process is going as planned” and CCS first phase described as “75 percent complete”.

Barring unforeseen drawbacks, the Decatur project could provide a strong boost for CCS applications in coal-fueled power generation facilities.

As recounted in a May 2012 report on the Ethanol Producer website, ADM’s project is part of the Illinois Basin-Decatur Project, an effort launch in 2007 and led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, the U.S. DOE, Schlumberger Carbon Services, and ADM. In fact, it’s the first of two CCS projects under way in the program, with the goal of proving that “large amounts of CO2 from industrial sources can be compressed and injected into deep geological formations for storage, thus reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lessening their effects on the environment.”

There has been has significant federal investment in both CCS projects. Funding for the first project has been channeled through the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium under the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The DOE’s interest in CCS stems from its belief that “the process offers a way to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change…” notes Ethanol Producer. “But in order to advance the use of this technology, the economics of the operations first need to be proven.”

The technology itself seems to be working. Several years after launch, reports the Ethanol Producer article, in November 2012, CO2 from ADM’s Decatur ethanol plant at last “began being captured, transported via pipeline and injected for permanent storage into a nearby geologic formation known as the Mount Simon Sandstone….”

With CO2 capture and storage running smoothly, injection of the gas has continued, averaging 1,000 metric tons per day. The project is slated to conclude in the fall of this year (2014); at that point, project leaders hope to have injected as much as one million metric tons of CO2 into permanent storage in the deep underground reservoir.

Federal funding totaling $141 million for the second CCS project has been provided via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“stimulus”) of 2009.

Success of the ADM’s Decatur ethanol CCS operation has been attracting political attention and support, according to the Herald-News coverage. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, affirmed his belief that CCS “is part of the solution” to the problem solving the confluence of energy needs, of GHG emissions, and global warming.

Durbin sees the ADM CCS project as just a beginning, and he’s eyeing further efforts to test and advance CCS technology. These include launching FutureGen, planned to start at a site about 60 miles to west of Decatur. According to the Herald-News, Sen. Durbin sees FutureGen, focused on capturing emissions from coal-fired power plants, as”an even more ambitious project” and “a dramatic next step.”

In any case, ADM’s ethanol CCS venture at Decatur is garnering attention “from around the country and world” which “will continue to be focused on the site in Decatur to see if the project continues to be successful.” And, if this implementation of CCS technology “proves to be as worthwhile as anticipated”, reports the paper, “ADM has ambitious business aspirations” for it.