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Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS)

By Jacquelyn Hurry

This summer I was one of 33 students was chosen to participate in a fully funded Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS) held June 1-10.  RECS is a 10-day interactive program that combines classroom instruction, site visits to carbon capture facilities, and hand-on field activities. Twenty-two globally recognized Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) experts and two RECS alumni collectively covered topics that ranged from capture technology, policy, CCUS deployment strategies, MVA monitoring, and communications training.

June 1, I traveled to Birmingham, Alabama the ‘cradle of the American Civil Rights Movement,’ and checked-in at the University of Birmingham Camp Hall where I met fellow participants.  This year RECS was hosted by Southern Company, which one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity and serves 4.3 million customers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.  In addition to providing energy, Southern Company is proactive in reducing their CO2 emissions through various CCUS technologies and partnerships.

Day 2: Our first stop was Alabama Power’s Plant Miller.  After a solid afternoon of presentations we toured the plant and capture demonstration facility.  As a bonus, during our southern BBQ lunch the EPA released its plan to cut carbon emissions from the worlds’ largest emitters, coal fired power plants. It was a bit ironic that we were watching Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, announce the Clean Power Plan while we sat at one of the largest emitters of CO2!

Day 3: We traveled to the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC, http://www.nationalcarboncapturecenter.com/ ) located within the Plant Gaston utility site. The Department of Energy (DOE) established the NCCC in 2009 as a test center for emerging capture technologies.  Here researchers from all over the world can test their capture technologies including pre-combustion, post-combustion, and oxy-combustion CO2capture processes at multiple scales.

Here Carl Carman, one of my colleagues from the Illinois State Geological Survey and fellow RECS participant, and I posed for a photo in front of the NCCC before our tour.

Day 4: We traveled to Alabama Power Headquarters for presentations on public engagement, relation strategies, and communication coaching exercises. This experience was one of my favorite days of the course. We were split into groups and given different topics of public concern dealing with CCS.

My group’s topic dealt with farmer accusations of dead animals caused by leaking CO2 in their pond. Sound familiar…Kerr investigation? This was great for me because I was able to provide solid talking points for Davina Bird, pictured below, on Weyburn. After each group finished the exercise we watched the recorded video and were given valuable feedback.

That night a group of us went to Dreamland BBQ for dinner, and it was so messy it was good! 

Day 5: Geology with the Dr. Pashin!!

After learning about the rocks and depositional environment, it was time for some Roadside Geology of Birmingham. Nicolas (University of Southampton), Carl (ISGS), Stephen (QUEST), and I ditched the bus and jumped in the car with Dr. Jack Pashin and took a selfie! Don’t worry I did not sing the selfie song.

My roomie, Davina Bird, West Virginia University, and I.

A handsome group of RECS rock stars!

After our field visit we headed to the Tuscaloosa Core Lab. That afternoon we departed for Mobile, Alabama. #Bama

Day 6: We learned about CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) site characterization, permitting, standardization, and to always expect the unexpected. There were over 100 Gopher tortoise burrows that were encountered along the pipeline easement that would connect the capture COto the oil field. The Gopher tortoise is on the endangered species list, so making turtle soup was out! It would have cost $5k for each burrow to relocate, so instead the pipeline was drilled much deeper under the burrows. We were told to try to avoid drilling/monitoring activities near endangered species. We headed to plant Barry CO2capture unit for a tour.  CO2 captured at Plant Barry is transported via 12 + mile pipeline to the Citronelle Dome where it is injected for EOR.

Day 7: Saturday we enjoyed a day off at Dauphin Island. Off-shore oil wells stretched for miles and miles in each direction.

After hanging out at the beach we went for a nice cruise on the Duke.

Day 8: After some group work Sunday we departed for Meridian, Mississippi.

Day 9: We travelled to Kemper County Energy Facility. We were given an overview of the facility and learned about the Transport Integrated Gasification (TRIG) technology that Kemper will use to convert lignite coal into natural gas.

RECS 2014 in front of the Kemper Project!!

After Kemper we headed over to tour Liberty lignite mine. Here is a model of what the surface mine looks like.

Here, I’m checking out a huge tonka truck with Stephen Harvey, from QUEST Canada.

Two RECS alumni and good friend Marko Maver, University of Sheffield, enjoying the view

We had a lot of fun touring this site. I felt like I was in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097523/) because the equipment was massive. Nope, didn’t budge!

Learning about the slackline.

And another group photo at the Liberty Mine.

At the end of the day we wrapped up our activities with an awesome group discussion and then headed back to Birmingham.

If you are a researcher interested in CCUS or a young professional in the field, I encourage you to apply to RECS (http://www.recsco2.org/). It’s been a one of the most valuable experiences of my graduate career thus far and I am grateful for the opportunity. There is not another CCS program that can compare to the knowledge RECS provides and the relationships it builds in 10 days. Thank you RECS!!  #recs2014

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