By TIM ALEXANDER
JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — A proposed 1,300 mile, 12-county underground pipeline will transport carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions captured by Illinois refineries and other industrial sources, culminating at a central Illinois location for storage in underground rock. This is the vision of Illinois State Geological Survey geologists and engineers along with Duane Friend, University of Illinois Extension natural resources, environment and energy educator. The goal: to reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions caused by biofuels production and other industries.
“To slow down the warming that is occurring and will be occurring for the next several decades, there needs to be a number of options examined to keep additional carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere. This is only one of what will likely be dozens of different prevention and adaptation strategies, said Friend, whose Jacksonville office is located near the area where the captured CO2 would be embedded in a layer of subterranean Mt. Simon sandstone.
The St. Simon sandstone, at 500 to 2,600 feet in thickness, lies below several layers of impermeable rock. The rock layer makes the location ideal for CO2 storage, according to Friend.
“This rock layer is porous enough to accept liquid CO2, but not let it travel very far from the point of injection,” Friend said. “Multiple layers of impermeable rock keeps the CO2 from migrating upward, much like trapped oil and as that is closer to the surface.”
The proposed “Heartland Greenway” pipeline would enter Illinois near western Hancock County before veering north and east through Adams, Brown, Christian, Fulton, Henry, Knox, McDonough, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler and Scott counties to the sequestration site, described by Friend as east of Jacksonville.
“Much of the proposed sequestration would be coming from ethanol plants,” Friend said.
The feasibility of the project was tested by researchers and engineers working with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who closely monitored the capture, injection and observation of industrially produced CO2 at the company’s Decatur site. In the ADM operation, carbon dioxide is captured and compressed before the water is removed. The water then enters the pipeline at an injection well on the surface, before being pumped and injected into the sandstone. The process passed safety tests.
The path of the proposed pipeline will likely cross farmland and rural properties, requiring a series of community meetings and planning initiatives — along with the approval of landowners and rural township boards — to succeed. Friend has some advice for landowners approached by pipeline companies seeking property access easements in the coming months: ask a lot of questions.
“As with any pipeline going through farmland, landowners need to ask many questions and fully understand any contract they sign. Some questions they need to ask is to find out what the company will do about going through fields with tile lines, and if those tiled areas will be properly maintained in case of land shifting or settlement. In addition, landowners need to have a clear idea of how long — or if — they can expect extra compensation on land that will likely have lower crop yields due to topsoil disturbance and compaction,” Friend advised.
After a period of initial public meetings, pipeline proponents are hopeful that local boards and commissions will vote to include their counties in the project’s footprint. Only then can pipeline companies begin to approach individual landowners with easement contracts in hand.
“We’re probably looking at a year, at least, until all those things can get lined up, is my guess” said Friend.