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Carbon Sequestration and Natural Gas extraction: Out with the old and in with the new?

November 8, 2010

Paleontologists from the Paleontological Research Institution attended the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver, Colorado from Oct. 31, 2010 to Nov. 3, 2010, presenting their own research, PRI’s education initiatives, and learning a few things along the way.

There were a few interesting sessions that dealt with unconventional drilling methods for extracting fossil fuels, and I’d like to take a minute to highlight something I learned from one in particular. In conjunction with the Department of Energy and NETL, and with the Kentucky Geologic Survey, a few researchers presented information gained from a drill core in the Ohio Shale. The Ohio Shale, located in eastern Kentucky, is Late Devonian in age, but is still part of the Appalachian basin where the Marcellus Shale is also located.

Black shales, in part, retain their natural gas in place because it is adsorbed to the shale. Adsorbed, unlike absorbed, is not contained within the shale grains, but rather adhered or glued chemically to the grains. In the presented research, which was focused on carbon sequestration, it was presented that this shale would preferentially adsorb carbon dioxide over natural gas by a 4.5:1, meaning that the shale would prefer, chemically, to glue itself to carbon dioxide and release methane.

The implications for this VERY initial research, which needs to be tested, is that the Big Sandy gas field (in eastern KY) could potentially hold up to 6.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The Appalachian Basin rocks, if similar, could store 212 billion tons of carbon dioxide! But only if the natural gas comes out of the shale Because the shales are so impermeable, they make potentially great long-term carbon storage facilities, but extraction of natural gas is needed to create the storage space.

It’s a great time to be a scientist!

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