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Fight Climate Change: Pump Carbon Dioxide Underground

A team of researchers representing government, industry and academia has launched a test project in which carbon dioxide produced by a natural gas processing plant is being disposed of by injecting it far beneath the ground.

Officials announced Thursday that the test is under way at a site in Otsego County's Charlton Township, about 10 miles east of Gaylord in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula.

It is one of more than 20 such projects taking place around the country.

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The experiments are part of an effort led by the U.S. Department of Energy to better understand the potential — and demonstrate the technologies available — for deep-underground storage of carbon dioxide to prevent the greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.

"The success of each of these tests moves the nation's carbon-sequestration program another step closer to determining the processes best suited to address the overall issue of global warming," said DOE official Jim Slutz.

In the storage process, called geologic sequestration, a pressurized, liquid form of the captured carbon dioxide is being injected into saline rock formations more than 3,000 feet below the ground in Michigan.

The subterranean rock formations contain water with a high concentration of salts and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are thought to have the largest storage capacity for compressed carbon dioxide, which retains its liquid form at such a depth.

The test started in early February. By the time it is completed late next month, 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide will have been buried, according to a written statement issued by the DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The carbon dioxide is being pumped more than 2,000 feet below drinking water levels, which are at a depth of less than 1,000 feet in the region, the department said.

It is being captured from DTE Energy Co.'s Turtle Lake facility about eight miles from the test site and, after being liquefied, transported to the injection well through an existing pipeline.

Besides the DOE and DTE, other entities involved in the test include site operator Core Energy LLC, a Bakersfield, Calif.-based oil and gas production company; Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit energy research laboratory in Columbus, Ohio; the Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education at Western Michigan University; and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Geological Survey.

"Although the test is very small in scale, it holds great promise as an important step in building our knowledge and helping future generations to address global warming," said David Ball, Battelle's manager for the project in an eight-state region that includes Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.