by Ben Sutherly
GREENVILLE - A porous rock layer filled with saltwater that underlies much of the Midwest could permanently store half of the greenhouse gases released in the next century by industries in Ohio and neighboring states.
That's the prediction of the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which is embarking on a large-scale test injection of carbon dioxide into that rock layer, known as the Mount Simon Sandstone formation.
The $92.8 million project, funded mostly with taxpayer dollars, would compress and inject 1 million tons of carbon dioxide from a new ethanol plant in Greenville. The gas would be injected more than 3,000 feet underground from 2010 through 2014.
The Andersons Marathon Ethanol LLC, Ohio's largest ethanol plant, can make 110 million gallons of ethanol from 43 million bushels of corn each year. It also generates annually more than 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global warming. Virtually all of that carbon dioxide would be injected underground if the reservoir beneath the ethanol plant's 80-acre site is deemed suitable.
The MRCSP, managed by Columbus-based Battelle, selected the ethanol plant for the test project in part because of timing - the plant opened in February. And, according to a November 2007 project proposal, the ethanol plant offers large quantities of carbon dioxide, which can be sold for commercial uses such as dry ice, at a substantial discount.
The amount of carbon dioxide released by the ethanol plant is a small fraction of that released by a typical coal-fired, 1,000-megawatt power plant, which produces 1 million tons of carbon dioxide in little more than a month, said Debra Crow, a spokeswoman for The Andersons.
"We're interested in being a good corporate citizen and helping with any kind of research that can improve the environment," Crow said.