Best practices for managing wells used to store carbon dioxide (CO2) in geologic formations are the focus of a publication just released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

This new manual in the department’s series on current best practices associated with carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), Carbon Storage Systems and Well Management Activities covers the planning, permitting, design, drilling, implementation and decommissioning of CO2 storage wells. The manual builds on lessons learned through NETL research, the experiences of the laboratory’s regional partnerships in conducting CCUS field tests, and the acquired knowledge of industries that have been actively drilling wells for more than 100 years. NETL is part of DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy.  

CCUS is a promising option for reducing CO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources and helping mitigate climate change. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs, unmineable coal beds, brine-filled rock formations, and other deep underground geologic features all are potentially suitable for safe and secure CO2 storage. The recently released 2012 North American Carbon Storage Atlas estimates geologic storage capacity to permanently store at least 500 years worth of CO2 emissions from stationary sources in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The new manual provides an overview of the well-management activities typically associated with CCUS projects, beginning with pre-injection planning and continuing through post-injection operations. It is not a "how-to" book for developing these projects; rather, it provides a roadmap and resource for lessons learned about well-management issues and what project planners and operators can expect as a project unfolds.

The manual discusses the types of experts needed for a successful CCUS project team –from technical scientists and engineers to nontechnical legal counsel, economists and communicators. It also covers the rigorous approach that project developers undertake to ensure human and environmental safety as they design, drill, maintain and close these wells.