A research partnership that includes three Arizona utilities is launching a $4.7 million test project to store carbon dioxide underground instead of releasing it into the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming.
The process, called carbon sequestration, has the potential to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by power and industrial plants and allow continued burning of fossil fuels until long-term renewable energy sources are available, according to project officials.
Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power are participants in the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, a venture that includes 70 public agencies, private companies and nonprofit organizations.
The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission and industrial partners.
The group has selected a site near Joseph City in Navajo County as the location of a demonstration well that will inject carbon dioxide about three-quarters of a mile deep into rock formations that are believed to be impermeable.
The site is next to the APS Cholla coal-burning power plant, but emissions from that plant will not be used in the test.
The partners will use carbon dioxide manufactured for the soda industry that will be transported to the site by truck or rail, said Robert Trautz, a hydrologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and the project’s technical manager.
The cost of capturing carbon dioxide at the power plant source is still expensive and remains an obstacle to implementing the technology even if underground storage proves feasible, he said.
APS spokesman Steven Gotfried said sequestration is one of several options the utility is studying to reduce emissions. Another possibility being tested is growing algae to absorb the gas, he said.
“We’re trying to turn over every stone to find ways to use all of the different generation options,” he said.