Southeastern Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB Phase II)


A study sponsored by the

U.S. Department of Energy

National Energy Technology Laboratory


through the


Southern States Energy Board



Virginia Tech

Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research


Project start date: 10/1/05

Expected completion: 9/30/09




The southeastern United States accounts for about 40 percent of the nationŐs carbon dioxide emissions, and reducing those emissions will help offset the effects of global warming. Geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide has been identified as a viable approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. Department of Energy has established seven regional partnerships to identify and test the best prospects for carbon sequestration throughout the United States.


Phase I of the regional partnership program focused on identification and characterization of potential geologic sinks and was completed on September 30, 2005. Phase II activities, which will continue into 2009, include continued characterization of promising geologic sinks and feature scaled field tests and monitoring programs to verify sequestration capacity and sink integrity.


The Geological Survey of Alabama is a member of the Southeastern Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB) and has completed a Phase I investigation of potential geologic carbon sinks in Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle. Phase II activities being conducted by the Geological Survey of Alabama are focused on the potential of coal as a sink for carbon dioxide. Assessment activities include the characterization of coal seams in the Appalachian thrust belt. In addition, a field test and monitoring program will be conducted in coalbed methane reservoirs of the Black Warrior basin. The University of Alabama will assist in the design and implementation of the field test, Advanced Resources International will develop reservoir models to support the test, and Southern Company will conduct shallow subsurface and surface monitoring programs to ensure that the test is safe and effective.




Assessment of Coal Seams in the Appalachian Thrust Belt

Significant potential for carbon sequestration and enhanced coalbed methane recovery may exist in the coal-bearing Pottsville Formation of the Cahaba and Coosa synclinoria of the Appalachian thrust belt in Alabama, but that potential has yet to be assessed. Coal seams of bituminous rank are distributed through a thick stratigraphic section in these synclinoria, and the thickness of individual seams is generally between 0.3 and 3.0 meters. The southwestern part of the Cahaba synclinorium has been the site of extensive coalbed methane development, and significant coalbed methane potential remains untapped in the northeastern part of the Coosa synclinorium.


The SECARB Phase II assessment includes characterization of the stratigraphy, sedimentology, structural geology, coal quality, hydrogeology, and gas capacity of coal-bearing strata in the Cahaba and Coosa synclinoria. This assessment will quantify carbon sequestration potential and will identify the sequestration technologies that are best suited for these areas.


Field Test in the Black Warrior Basin

In the coalbed methane fields of the Black Warrior basin, Pottsville coal beds are of bituminous rank, are typically between 0.3 and 3.0 meters thick, and are distributed through 700 to 1,500 meters of section. A recent assessment by the Geological Survey of Alabama indicates that more than 5.9 trillion cubic feet of carbon dioxide can be sequestered in the established coalbed methane fields and that enhanced recovery operations has potential to increase coalbed methane reserves by more than 20 percent.


The field test will be conducted in the northwestern coalbed methane fields, where coalbed methane wells are reaching maturity and potential for commercialization of carbon sequestration and enhanced coalbed methane recovery technology is high. A production well will be chosen for injection of about 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide on the basis of a series of geological, engineering, and logisitical screening criteria.


The permeability of coal decreases exponentially with depth, thus strategies need to be developed to manage injection into multiple coal seams with a broad range of reservoir properties. Reservoir testing will consist of a series of production and injection-falloff tests in three coal zones at depths between 300 and 700 meters, and deep monitoring of pressure and gas composition will be conducted through packer tests in observation wells. Baseline reservoir simulations will aid in the design of the tests, and follow-up simulations will be performed for history matching of the results.


Monitoring of gas composition in shallow boreholes and in the soil profile will be used to determine if seepage of injected gas occurs and to facilitate the development of monitoring protocols that will ensure the safe conduct of sequestration activities. In addition, stochastic reservoir modeling software is being developed to characterize multi-phase flow in fracture networks and to assess environmental risks associated with carbon sequestration and enhanced coalbed methane recovery.




 Technology Transfer


This project includes a vigorous technology transfer program that is designed to support the demonstration and commercialization of carbon sequestration technology. Results are being presented at technical meetings and workshops and are being published in technical journals and meeting proceedings. This website is also central to technology transfer activities, and links to relevant reports and materials are given below:


Pashin, J. C., Carroll, R. E., Groshong, R. H., Jr., Raymond, D. E., McIntyre, M. R., and Payton, J. W., 2004, Geologic screening criteria for sequestration of CO2 in coal: quantifying potential of the Black Warrior coalbed methane fairway, Alabama: Final Technical Report, U.S. Department of Energy, National Technology Laboratory, contract DE-FC26-00NT40927, 254 p. (PDF; 46.2 Mb)


Pashin, J. C., and Raymond, D. E., 2004, Glacial-eustatic control of coalbed methane reservoir distribution (Pottsville Formation; Lower Pennsylvanian) in the Black Warrior basin of Alabama: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, University of Alabama College of Continuing Studies, 2004 International Coalbed Methane Symposium Proceedings, Paper 0413, 15 p. (PDF; 5.1 Mb).


Pashin, J. C., 2005, Coalbed methane exploration in thrust belts: experience from the southern Appalachians, USA: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, University of Alabama, College of Continuing Studies, 2005 International Coalbed Methane Symposium Proceedings, paper 0519, 14 p. (PDF; 5.1 Mb).


Pashin, J. C., and Payton, J. W., 2005, Geological sinks for carbon sequestration in Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle: Alabama Geological Survey, Final Report to Southern States Energy Board, Subgrant SSEB-NT41980-997-GSA-2004-00 (.zip archive; 62.4 Mb; requires ArcView 3.2 or better).


 Project Team


Jack C. Pashin, Geological Survey of Alabama (Principal investigator; coal and petroleum geology)


Peter E. Clark, University of Alabama (Petroleum engineering)


Richard E. Carroll, Geological Survey of Alabama (Coal geology)


Marcella R. McIntyre, Geological Survey of Alabama (Structural geology)


Marty G. Gates, Geological Survey of Alabama (Structural geology, geographic information systems)


George J. Koperna, Jr., Advanced Resources International (Reservoir modeling)


Marc Bustin, University of British Columbia (Sorption isotherms)


 Contracting Officer Representatives


Karen Cohen, National Energy Technology Laboratory


Jerry Hill, Southern States Energy Board


Mike Karmis, Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research


 Major Sponsors and Partners


U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory


SECARB (Southeastern Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership)


Southern States Energy Board


Virginia  Tech (Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research)


Southern Company


EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute)


University of Alabama


Advanced Resources International, Incorporated


University of British Columbia




This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy through the Southern States Energy Board (Subgrant SSEB-SECARB2-998-T2-VAT-2005-00) and Virginia Tech (Subaward Agreement CR-19655-415227). However, any findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the DOE or other funding agencies.


The Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) makes every effort to collect, provide, and maintain accurate and complete information. However, data acquisition and research are ongoing activities of GSA, and interpretations may be revised as new data are acquired. Therefore, all information made available to the public by GSA should be viewed in that context. Neither the GSA nor any employee thereof makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed in this report. Conclusions drawn or actions taken on the basis of these data and information are the sole responsibility of the user.