Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


February 10, 2013

Carbon capture — Test project for Southwest Va. welcomed

Clean coal technology is a term you don’t hear mentioned a lot nowadays in the current anti-coal environment that continues to permeate Washington. And that’s truly unfortunate. But that’s not to say that nothing is happening as it relates to clean coal technology research and related pilot projects. Just a few years ago a test carbon capture project was launched in Russell County. And a new pilot carbon capture project was announced just last week for Buchanan County.

The pilot project aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and enhance the extraction of usable methane. Its goal is to test the potential of using coal seams that can not currently be mined as storage sites for carbon dioxide. The project is a partnership of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research and the Cecil Township, Pa.-based Consol Energy. It is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Under the plan, Consol Energy will donate the use of three coalbed methane wells in the pilot project to be conducted by Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering section of the College of Engineering.

 Steve Winberg, vice president of Consol Energy’s research and development department, said the project will help to further define carbon storage alternatives while continuing the company’s collaborative efforts to develop clean coal technologies.

Using three coal bed methane wells donated by Consol Energy’s CNX Gas Virginia operations, current plans call for injecting and storing as much as 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide into underlying coal seams at the identified site this fall, according to Virginia Tech officials. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring odorless, colorless atmospheric gas. It is exhaled when living things breathe and one of its common uses is in the carbonation of drinks, including sodas.

The injection will be performed during a one-year period and builds on the recently completed 1,000-ton injection test that took place in neighboring Russell County in 2009. It is expected that the coal seam will absorb the carbon dioxide and potentially release even more methane for collection and use, as occurred in the smaller scale test in Russell County, according to Virginia Tech.

There’s no doubt America should continue to work toward developing clean energy. This newspaper has been among those rallying for funding for clean coal technology, such as the development of carbon sequestration facilities. And the new pilot project announced for Buchanan County, and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is certainly welcomed.

But as we work to develop clean energy, our national energy portfolio shouldn’t automatically exclude abundant fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas simply because such fossil fuels like coal are perceived as “dirty.” And the federal Environmental Protection Agency needs to stop playing politics with its regulations.

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