In a major step forward for demonstrating the promise of clean energy technology, the U.S Department of Energy awarded the first three large-scale carbon sequestration projects in the United States and the largest single set in the world to date.
Among these is the Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration led by Dr. Brian McPherson, a Utah Science Technology and Research professor located at the University of Utah's Energy and Geoscience Institute.
Development of this technology will allow Utah to maximize use of traditional fuels, like coal, in a carbon neutral manner, well into the future.
The US Department of Energy recently awarded Dr. McPherson a $67 million grant to study carbon capture and storage. Adding in private and partner funding, the project will total $88 million.
Dr. McPherson is an internationally recognized expert in carbon capture and storage. The University of Utah recruited Dr. McPherson to develop this technology through funding provided by the USTAR Initiative.
Carbon capture facilities are planned to be built in rural Utah, requiring construction and maintenance workers. In addition, because carbon capture and storage holds promise for improving the ability to generate electricity using Utah's abundant coal and natural gas resources, while still meeting new regulations limiting CO2 emissions, it could mean well-paying jobs in mining and electric plants could continue to grow and prosper in rural Utah.
"Coal is a precious natural resource for Utah and a tremendous asset to our rural economy," said Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. "Investing in the development of technology allowing for carbon capture and sequestration will help ensure our coal is viable for many years to come, and also help provide a clean energy solution for our neighbors and others around the world."
Natural gas has been trapped below Utah sandstone for millennia. Now, Dr. McPherson is developing ways to inject CO2 into those same sandstone formations to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. The idea of carbon capture and storage is to take CO2 created by burning fossil fuels at power plants and pump it thousands of feet underground to store it safely away from the atmosphere.
To study the feasibility of carbon storage, Dr. McPherson is making plans to inject up to 1 million tons of CO2 yearly into the ground southeast of Price. His team will closely monitor the site to prove that long-term underground storage is a feasible solution to mitigating CO2 emissions. This part of the project will potentially bring as much as $30 million to the economy of rural Utah.