Boise Inc. mill to be site of carbon study

The company's Wallula facility will team with Battelle to test the feasibility of carbon sequestration technology.

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WALLULA -- The clouds of flue gas churning from Boise Inc.'s pulp and paper mill could be headed underground in a trailblazing experiment to reduce greenhouse gases.

Walla Walla County's eighth-largest employer will team with Battelle to conduct the first feasibility study of new carbon capture and storage technology in a $500,000 project announced Tuesday by the Department of Energy.

If the feasibility evaluation is successful, project partners may seek another $100 million or more for a commercial design study aimed at the reduction of carbon footprints.

For now, the seven-month project will focus on capture technology developed by Fluor Corp., which means no construction, drilling, field characterization or carbon dioxide injection at this point.

Instead the focus will be the development of a conceptual design for a sequestration system integrated with Fluor's capture system technology. The system would need to support injecting about 720,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year into a deep flood basalt formation.

"This study provides us an opportunity to assess the feasibility of safely and permanently storing CO2 in deep underground basalt formations for a commercial-scale operation," said Pete McGrail, laboratory fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the chief scientist for the project.

The work has numerous implications -- meeting Boise's goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention throughout the $140 billion pulp, paper and paperboard industry, as well as numerous others, and creating a possible new revenue source from carbon credits.

Nick Nachbar, manager of Boise's Wallula mill, said in the announcement the project "fits squarely within our broader companywide strategy to reduce carbon emissions."

One upside to area residents and motorists passing the mill is the possible reduction of the sulfuric odor from the plant.

Fluor will design a customized version of its Econamine FG PlusSM carbon capture technology for operation with the specialized chemical composition of exhaust gases produced from combustion of black liquor fuels, according to the announcement. It will determine whether special modifications are needed to accommodate flue gas, including potential benefits of reducing emissions of sulfur compounds.

The technology has been commercially proven on numerous industrial facilities over the last two-plus decades. But this will be the first use on flue gas for the paper industry.

The project is separate from a field research study under way between Boise and Battelle at Boise's Wallula property. That project -- known as the Wallula Basalt Field Study Pilot -- is a test to see if the deep basalt that lies 3,000 to 4,000 feet underground can be used to store and mineralize carbon dioxide, the gas most associated with climate change.

That field study is part of a DOE-funded program administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory through the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, facilitating commercial testing and deployment of carbon capture and storage.

The new project will rely on results of that piece.

Completion of the new study could blaze the trail for the $140 billion pulp, paper and paperboard industry -- as well as other industries -- to capture carbon dioxide.

Funded by the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, it is one of 12 projects receiving a portion of the $21.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding.

After the first phase is completed, partners may opt to compete for more funding in 2010. Projects that best demonstrate the ability to address the agency's mission needs will be finalists that receive money for design, construction and operation.

Both phases, if awarded, could be supported under the ARRA, which allocates a total of $1.4 billion in funding for carbon capture and storage from industrial sources.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

Who's Who?

Boise Inc.
Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, the company manufactures packaging products and papers including corrugated containers, containerboard, label and release and flexible packaging papers, imaging papers for the office and home, printing and converting papers, newsprint, and market pulp.

The company has set voluntary goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency Climate Leaders partnership. It has also joined the Chicago Climate Exchange, the world's first and North America's only voluntary, legally-binding integrated greenhouse gas emissions reduction, registry and trading system. www.boiseinc.com

Fluor Corp.
Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Fluor designs, builds and maintains many of the world's most challenging and complex projects. Through a global network of offices on six continents, the company provides comprehensive capabilities and expertise in engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance and project management. The Fortune 200 company had revenues of $22.3 billion in 2008. www.fluor.com

Battelle
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle is the world's largest nonprofit independent research and development organization, providing solutions to the world's most pressing needs through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management, National Security, Energy Technology, and Health and Life Sciences.

It advances scientific discovery by conducting $5.2 billion in global research and development annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization.

Battelle oversees 20,400 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide. Seven of those are national laboratories managed or co-mangaged by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and two international laboratories. www.battelle.org

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
PNNL is a Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America's most intractable problems in energy, national security and the environment. PNNL employs 4,250 people, has a $918 million annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965. www.pnl.gov

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