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The first underground carbon sequestration process of its kind in the country will start within the next few days at American Electric Power's Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County.

"Over the past month, we've started up the capture process and we're fine tuning and working out the bugs and hope to start injecting sometime soon," Project Manager Brian Sherrick said on Wednesday's MetroNews Talkline. This project will mark the first time in the U.S. carbon has been captured at a coal fired power plant and stored underground, keeping the pollutant from being released into the atmosphere. Already two wells have been drilled at the New Haven site, one is 8,200 feet under the surface, while the other is 7,800 feet under the surface. There are also three deep monitoring wells. Before it's pumped underground, the carbon will be changed from a gas to a fluid. "We'll open up a couple of valves and it'll (the CO2) start flowing into the injection tubes and then it'll spread out within the reservoir," says Sherrick. The carbon will be held in underground sandstone formations chosen specifically for the task. "It is porous rock, sort of like what you think of as a sponge." "It looks like any rock, if you look at a rock core, it just has the pores and then the permeability to link between those pores so the CO2 can spread through the formation and then, above those injection reservoirs, we have what we call 'cap rock,'" he explains. That cap rock keeps the CO2 sealed in the reservoir. Sherrick says he's confident the formations will hold the carbon. There are questions, though, about how much carbon exactly can be held. The plan is to pump 100,000 tons of carbon underground every year for the next two to five years. That amount is less than two percent of Mountaineer's current yearly carbon dioxide output. A lot of people are watching AEP's experiment. The carbon sequestration process, though, could end up costing the Mountaineer plant a lot of energy and a lot of money. American Electric Power is the largest electricity producer in the U.S. with a grid, powered by coal, stretching through almost a dozen states.

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