The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $66.9 million to the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership at Montana State University (MSU) to fund a project that will inject a million tons of carbon dioxide into the sandstone rock layer beneath southwestern Wyoming.
The award marks the third and
final phase of federal funding for the Big Sky partnership, which is based at
MSU. Approximately $14 million of the federal money will stay on the MSU campus
to pay for the university's contribution to the project.
The award will allow the
partnership to begin its Phase III project, a commercial-scale, eight-year
carbon sequestration study that could begin as early as next year. That project
will spend two years building infrastructure and drilling an 11,000-foot well
into the sandstone rock layer west of Big Piney, Wyo. Then, during years three through five of the project,
the partnership will inject more than a million metric tons of CO2
into the underground formation.
Carbon dioxide is one of
several greenhouse gases that scientists have linked to global climate change.
Rather than let CO2 escape into the air, geologic sequestration
injects liquefied CO2 into permeable and porous rock formations deep
underground where a seal known as a cap rock keeps the CO2
The partnership's previous
studies have shown that the Big Sky partnership's region – in depleted oil and
gas fields and saline aquifers – could store more than 200 billion metric tons
of CO2. By comparison, in 2005, human activity around the world
produced 28 billion tons of CO2.
The Big Sky partnership will
use the Phase III project to demonstrate that underground geologic formations
can store large volumes of CO2 economically, safely and permanently.
The project will study the site's geology before injection, monitor the
injection process, and monitor the site after injection.
Lee Spangler, director of the
partnership and head of MSU's Energy Research Institute, notes that the award
opens up important opportunities for the region, state and university. "It
provides the opportunity to validate carbon sequestration as one of the
technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and help reduce climate change, and it
illustrates the potential to use the region's vast energy resources as a path
to energy independence in a climate-friendly fashion," Spangler says.
The DOE hopes that this
project, and its six sister projects across the country, will provide data and
know-how needed for future carbon capture and sequestration operations. "Along
with our regional partner, we will be able to move carbon sequestration
technology from the laboratory to large-scale field demonstrations and
ultimately to the marketplace," says Jeffrey Kupfer, deputy secretary of
energy for the Department of Energy. "By doing so, we will help our nation
meet growing energy demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
The $66.9 million from the
Department of Energy will pay for a sizeable portion of the $130 million
project. The rest of the project's cost will be paid by industry partners,
matching funds and other funding sources. The CO2 will be donated by
Cimarex Energy Co., which is building a helium and natural gas processing plant
near the injection site.
Founded in 2003, the
partnership is one of seven regional partnerships supported by the DOE. In
addition to MSU, three national laboratories, half a dozen regional
universities and numerous federal agencies, private companies and industrial
partners comprise the partnership.
Phase I of the partnership's
work involved studying the geology beneath the Big Sky region to determine its
suitability and capacity for carbon sequestration and identifying human sources
of carbon dioxide emissions. Phase II involves a small-scale injection of CO2
– 1,000 metric tons – into a pilot well near Wallula, Wash. The drilling for that injection is expected to begin
Montana State Partnership Receives Grant for Carbon Sequestration
December 11, 2008