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Carbon Dioxide Injected Under Columbia Basalts In Climate-Related Demonstration

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

A long delayed experiment to demonstrate how a global warming gas can be locked up forever deep underground has finally started. Technicians working with the Pacific Northwest National Lab are injecting carbon dioxide down a well south of Pasco, Washington.

The U.S. Department of Energy is paying to bring in CO2 from several West Coast oil refineries. Fifty tanker truck loads will be injected about half a mile beneath ancient lava flows along the Columbia River. The injection takes three weeks and then scientists will monitor the area for the next 18 months to see if they’ve trapped the global warming gas for good.

The Pacific NW National Lab’s Pete McGrail is the lead scientist on the project. He says, “If you take a gas, make it into a liquid, let it react with rock and turn to rock (the CO2 turns into a carbonate), it’s the safest, most secure storage you could have.”

This small-scale demonstration was conceived at a time when the U.S. and other nations were poised to crack down on global warming pollution. But in the decade since, Congressional inaction on climate change has undermined the economic viability of this high-cost technology.

The partners in this test say they’re taking “the long view.”

On the Web:

Basalt Pilot Overview - Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership 
Geological Carbon Storage Research - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.