On Wednesday, November 10, 2021, Red Trail Energy (RTE) gave an update on its carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. More than 50 people registered to hear the latest news at a virtual open house presented over Zoom by RTE and its research partner, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota. Interested registrants in the project included local landowners and officials as well as industry professionals from the United States, Canada, and Turkey.
The biggest news was the approval of the storage facility permit by the North Dakota Industrial Commission on October 19, which brings the RTE CCS project one step closer to becoming the first of its kind in North Dakota. One of the evening’s presentations offered a peek at a small part of the planning and documentation that went into the 600-plus-page storage facility permit.
RTE CEO Gerald Bachmeier shared the history of RTE and gave an overview of the project, with EERC researchers providing detail on carbon capture, the suitability of the storage zone, the storage process, and the extensive monitoring systems that will safeguard human health and ensure environmental protection. The presentations concluded with a look at an EERC research project getting under way at RTE for improved novel monitoring techniques with Japan-based partner, RITE (Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth). Several key takeaways from the presentations include:
- The CO2 to be injected underground will remain there permanently.
- The rock layers under RTE are well suited for CCS. A highly porous and permeable sandstone layer starting about 6400 feet below the surface has thick shale layers both above and below it that will trap the CO2 where it is injected.
- The sandstone layer—called the Broom Creek Formation, into which RTE will be injecting CO2—can hold at least 1000 times more CO2 than RTE will inject over the life of the project.
- In a worst-case scenario of damage to the flowline, which is at least 6 feet underground for its entire length, the capture system is specifically designed to revert to venting CO2 gas into the atmosphere, exactly as happens currently under RTE’s air quality permit (and at every ethanol plant without a CCS system).
The evening was widely regarded as educational and interesting and concluded with many questions and answers about a range of topics, including the salt water in the Broom Creek Formation, the concentration of CO2 from the plant, and the extensive planning and engineering that will prevent blockage of the injection well. The question of whether the CO2 might be retrieved for use elsewhere (such as oil production) was answered with assurance that the CO2 will not be retrieved—doing so would be contrary to the agreement under which RTE will receive compensation for sequestration and would force RTE to pay back that compensation.
In his concluding remarks, Bachmeier made clear that the years of research and planning that have gone into the project showed that it would be safe, effective, and a boon to the economic impact RTE has on the region. “We want to be good neighbors,” said Bachmeier, encouraging anyone who had further questions or was interested in learning more about the project to contact RTE directly. Questions can also be sent to EERC researchers by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.