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LSU to Drill Carbon Capture Research Well on Campus

BATON ROUGE (Louisiana Illuminator) — LSU’s College of Engineering will soon drill a new well on campus to research carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

The well will be added to LSU’s Petroleum Engineering Research, Training and Testing Lab, a hands-on research facility near Alex Box Stadium made up of two industrial-scale research wells, additional storage wells and surface facilities.

The two wells aren’t used to drill for oil, and no fluid is injected into them. Rather, they allow researchers to simulate conditions at real oil drilling sites. The new well will be similar in this regard, but will be capable of handling carbon dioxide, which is not possible in the existing facilities. 

“The CO2 related research will be just to… gain a better understanding of all the physics, all the dynamics, all the technology that happens when you inject CO2 into the ground,” Karsten Thompson, interim dean of LSU’s College of Engineering, said in an interview. 

A functioning CCUS well would be unique, petroleum engineering professor Richard Hughes said. 

Carbon capture is a process in which CO2 is captured from the atmosphere. It can then be used for industrial purposes or stored deep underground. The stated goal of the technology is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon capture does not yet exist on a meaningful scale, although 30 projects have so far been proposed in Louisiana. 

Carbon capture has the support of the fossil fuel industry, though critics say it would be better for oil and gas companies to reduce their CO2 output directly. Many feel the environmental and safety impacts of underground carbon storage have not been fully vetted.

Louisiana has been at the forefront of carbon capture projects, although not without controversy. Proposed projects are often met with distrust from community members who have concerns about how the technology will impact the environment. 

LSU and other universities in Louisiana have been the beneficiary of a series of federal grants to fund research into carbon capture and sequestration. 

This facility will be funded through a combination of federal and state funds, with oil and gas industry partners supplying much of the equipment. The federal and state money totals about $5.5 million, and in-kind donations from industry could total millions more, Thompson said.  Many of the engineering school’s projects include industry equipment donations. 

Drilling of the new well could begin by the end of this year, according to Thompson. In addition to the well, the university will construct a building to house part of the external flow loop in order to conduct research in a climate-controlled environment. A flow loop is an above-ground piping system used to pump CO2 at its various phases. 

About 10 engineering faculty members would be involved in carbon capture research at the facility. Numerous undergradu​​ate and graduate students would also have an opportunity to engage in research. 

In the past three years, there has been a sharp uptick in the demand for research on specific issues related to carbon capture and sequestration, Hughes said. The new facility could be used to research leak detection and other CCUS safety issues, as well as the efficacy and sustainability of new components and other topics related to carbon capture. The facility could be expanded or altered later to answer future questions, Hughes added.

By Piper Hutchinson


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