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Energy Projects in the News

January 8, 2020
woman and man in a lab
Researchers Ying Wang and William Schaffers at work in the Energy Innovation Center’s Carbon Engineering Lab.

By UW Communications

UW, Company Collaborate on Clean-Coal Test Facility

UW’s efforts to help assure the future of the state’s cornerstone coal industry took a step forward last spring with the signing of an agreement aimed at developing a cleaner-burning and more efficient coal in the Powder River Basin.

Under the agreement with Clean Coal Technologies Inc. (CCTI), the company will invest $1 million, matched by $500,000 in state funding, to bring CCTI’s coal-beneficiation technology to market. The funding will go toward construction of a rotary absorber kiln suited to stabilizing the surface of treated Powder River Basin coal in a demonstration facility at the former Fort Union mine site near Gillette, laboratory and field studies by UW researchers to quantify the performance of the technology, and studies by UW engineers to set the stage for design of a commercial plant using the technology.

CCTI’s technology reduces the moisture in coal, leaving the mineral stable and safe to handle. Along with producing more energy than untreated coal, the refined product also produces fewer harmful emissions when burned, including carbon dioxide, sulfur and mercury.

UW’s efforts on coal are multipronged. Researchers are looking for ways to make traditional uses of coal cleaner and more efficient through carbon capture and storage and other technologies, and scientists are exploring ways to create new markets for coal through carbon engineering—creating value-added products, such as carbon fiber, with a minimal or even negative carbon footprint.

man in lab coat and gloves working with large lab equipment
Abdelhalim Mohamed conducts research at the Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media in UW’s High Bay Research Facility.

$8 Million DOE Grant to Field Test Foam-Assisted Hydrocarbon Gas Injection

This summer, UW received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to field-test an innovative method of enhanced oil recovery (EOR)—foam-assisted hydrocarbon gas injection technology that could ultimately recover a higher percentage of stranded oil from unconventional reservoirs in North Dakota’s Bakken Formation.

In a collaborative effort with Hess Corporation and Dow, Mohammad Piri, the Thomas and Shelley Botts Endowed Chair in Unconventional Reservoirs and the Alchemy Sciences Endowed Chair in Petroleum Engineering—along with petroleum engineering faculty members Lamia Goual, Soheil Saraji and Pejman Tahmasebi—plan to pilot the use of a hydrocarbon gas mixture to create foam for injection into hydraulically fractured reservoir rock. This foam will slow the flow of gas, allowing more oil to be extracted from the rock.

“Most of crude oil is left behind after hydraulic fracturing,” Piri says. “If this pilot is successful, it’s a game-changing technology that can be used widely across unconventional plays.”

Greg Hill, Hess Corporation president and chief operating officer, says: “Our continued investment in UW’s groundbreaking research is truly a win-win, benefiting Hess and the energy industry while also ensuring that the U.S. is well positioned as a leader in meeting the world’s growing energy needs. Understanding the fundamental chemical and physical processes at work in unconventional reservoirs will be key to unlocking billions of barrels of potential resource.”

“The DOE is investing in the combined strengths of three renowned organizations,” says Ester Baiget, business president, Dow Industrial Solutions. “With Dow’s vast materials science expertise and EOR implementation knowledge, UW’s fundamental research capabilities and Hess’s world-class operational expertise, we have the best opportunity to solve this difficult problem: extracting more with less—less water, less environmental impact, less cost. It is exciting to extend Dow’s field-proven conventional EOR technologies in the rapidly growing unconventional oil production market.”

The research will be conducted at the Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media, which is housed in UW’s High Bay Research Facility. The knowledge gained will be used to calibrate computational simulators to better predict field performance, to assess and mitigate potential risks and to ensure successful implementation in the field.

man holding a cylindrical item
School of Energy Resources Director of Research Scott Quillinan

UW Partners on Carbon Storage Test Well Near Gillette

This past spring, a test well was created near Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette to determine the suitability of the underground geologic formations for commercial carbon dioxide (CO2) storage. The work is part of the Wyoming CarbonSAFE project, led by UW and other partners to determine the feasibility of establishing a commercial-scale geological CO2 storage complex in Wyoming.

Gillette-based Cyclone Drilling drilled the stratigraphic test well at a depth of 10,200 feet below the land surface. The well is located about a quarter of a mile south of the Dry Fork Station power plant and the Wyoming Integrated Test Center.

Researchers retrieved about 840 feet of core from potential storage reservoirs and from the rocks that seal the reservoirs. Team partner Schlumberger is aiding in the collection of a high-resolution geophysical log suite and helping to collect brine samples from each of the potential storage formations. The project team plans to collect 12.5 square miles of 3-D seismic data centered on the stratigraphic test well.

“Combined, the 3D seismic information and data from the stratigraphic test well will allow us to assess the feasibility of storing CO2 underground in this geological formation,” says Scott Quillinan, director of research with the School of Energy Resources.

Once the data are collected, the well will be closed and the land restored according to Wyoming regulations. No CO2 will be injected into the well during this phase. Team partner Basin Electric, which completed the dirt work in preparation for the project, leads the reclamation process. CarbonGeoCycle Inc. is handling well site management.

The project is funded by a $9.77 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and its partners include UW, Basin Electric, Wyoming Municipal Power Association, Advanced Resources International Inc., Schlumberger, CarbonGeoCycle Inc., and the Energy and Environmental Research Center. They hope to demonstrate that over 50 million metric tons of CO2 could be stored underground near the 385-megawatt Dry Fork Station.

The two-year $12.25 million project includes cost-sharing contributions from the partners totaling about $2.47 million.

The grant for the project comes from the DOE’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) initiative, which seeks to help mitigate CO2 emissions from consumption of fossil fuels.

The Powder River Basin produces about 40 percent of all coal consumed in the United States, and it also is home to existing CO2 pipelines for oil and gas operations, including fields suitable for use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

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