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Battelle's study of C02 storage near Wallula continues

RICHLAND — Battelle expects to be ready to inject carbon dioxide deep underground near Wallula this spring or summer as part of a pilot study.

It's investigating whether underground basalt formations could be used to store carbon dioxide permanently and safely. The gas is the predominant culprit implicated in climate change.

But before the carbon dioxide might be injected, the state of Washington must approve it. The state Department of Ecology announced Wednesday that its draft discharge permit for the study is available for public comment.

Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland for the Department of Energy, already has a temporary permit to cover initial research activities for the five-year project.

In early 2009, Battelle drilled an injection borehole 4,110 feet deep into the Columbia River basalt at the Boise Inc. mill near Wallula. The site was picked in part because of the low earthquake hazard there and water there is not potable at the depth targeted for the study because it is contaminated with naturally occurring sulfur and other elements.

The basalt left from lava flows there includes layers of solid rocks and other layers with as many holes as a sponge. It's the layers pockmarked with holes that have potential for storing carbon dioxide.

The gas is expected to flow through the holes and infuse itself in water trapped in the rock. As the carbonated water reacts with elements in the basalt, it should turn into calcium carbonate, the same substance that makes up limestone.

This spring or summer, Battelle plans to inject a maximum of 1,120 tons of liquid, food-grade carbon dioxide during a two-week to one-month period.

It will be injected to a depth of 2,700 to 2,900 feet below the ground, and the resulting plume would have a maximum diameter estimated at 210 feet.

Monitoring would be done of ground water and soil.

-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com

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