Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Feasibility Project?

Wyoming CarbonSAFE is focused on investigating the feasibility of practical, secure, permanent, geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-based electricity generation facilities near Gillette, Wyoming.

Several deep geologic rock layers are being studied for their suitability in permanently storing CO2.  These include CO2 storage zones and cap rocks, which seal the storage zone and keep the CO2 contained. Potential storage zones being investigated are deep sandstone layers including the Muddy, Lakota and Fall River (Dakota Group), Lower Sundance, and Minnelusa Formations. These formations are overlain by thousands of feet of impermeable rock, which would ensure permanent containment of fluids within the potential storage zones.

 The feasibility study will include the collection of data from these formations, obtaining and analyzing geologic samples, and using the results of the analyses to create geologic computer models in which to test storage scenarios. The feasibility study will also investigate regulatory and business issues related to implementing a CO2 storage site in the region.

 The project will hold information sessions with government officials, landowners, and the community. The two-year effort is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy under its CarbonSAFE Initiative.

 The study is managed by University of Wyoming’s Center for Economic Geology Research, with project partners including Basin Electric Power Cooperative; the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center; the University of Wyoming’s Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, College of Business, and College of Law; Carbon GeoCycle Incorporated, Advanced Resources International; and Schlumberger.

What is the primary objective of the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Phase II Project?

Wyoming CarbonSAFE seeks to understand the deep subsurface geology near Dry Fork Station for its potential to store carbon dioxide safety and permanently.

How important is coal to Wyoming’s economy?

Wyoming generates over 80% of its electricity from coal, and the generation plants in the Gillette, Wyoming area, including Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station, are a major part of Wyoming’s coal-based generation.  

What is Carbon Capture?

Using fossil fuels like coal for electricity generation produces carbon dioxide, which is typically released to the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology captures the CO2 before it leaves the plant and transports the CO2 (by pipeline, for example) to an injection site, where the CO2 is injected deep underground for safe, secure, and permanent storage in a suitable rock formation.

What is the connection between CarbonSAFE and Dry Fork Station?

Phase II of Wyoming CarbonSAFE is focused on assessing the feasibility of commercial-scale permanent geologic storage of CO2 from the coal-based electric generation at the Dry Fork Station in northeastern Wyoming. This Phase II project is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing effort of ensuring clean, affordable energy as well as state efforts, such as the Integrated Test Center, to promote the prudent use of Wyoming’s resources.

Where did the funding for CarbonSAFE come from?

The project was awarded by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy through a competitive process. Wyoming CarbonSAFE Phase II Feasibility Project is one of three awarded CO2 storage projects totaling nearly $30 million for cost-shared research and development through DOE’s CarbonSAFE initiative. The CarbonSAFE initiative, which stands for Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprisesupports projects that address key research in the path toward the deployment of CCS technologies, including the development of safe commercial-scale geologic storage sites for CO2. DOE envisions a four-phase plan leading to development of commercial-scale CCS facilities. To date, 13 Phase I and six Phase II projects have been funded. The Phase I effort, called Integrated Commercial Carbon Capture and Storage Pre-feasibility Study at Dry Fork Station, Wyoming looked at available information and found promising geology deep beneath the area of Gillette, Wyoming. This Phase II feasibility project will build on the Phase I effort.  

Who are the project partners?

Wyoming CarbonSAFE Phase II is led by the University of Wyoming’s Center for Economic Geology Research. Project partners include Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center, the University of Wyoming’s Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, College of Business, and College of Law; Carbon GeoCycle Incorporated, Advanced Resources International, and Schlumberger. 

How does geology come into play?

Geology is the key to safe, permanent storage of CO2 deep underground. Geologic CO2 storage requires a deep porous rock layer to hold the CO2 and overlying impermeable rock layers to act as seals against vertical migration. Characterizing and modeling the potential storage zones and sealing units in the vicinity of the Dry Fork station are major components of the Phase II feasibility study.

In order to obtain information on the potential storage rock layer, Wyoming CarbonSAFE Phase II effort will drill a deep hole, called a stratigraphic test well, to extract samples of rock from the potential storage zones and sealing units. The well will be located on private land, and the work is being done with the collaboration and consent of the landowners. After research at the site is completed, the well will be filled with concrete (plugged), and the drill site will be restored to predrilling condition in accordance with state regulations. No CO2 will be injected during this feasibility study.  

What are other key components of this process?

Even if the rock layers are suitable, successful geologic CO2 storage cannot occur without practical transport, injection, and monitoring systems. As part of Phase II, Wyoming CarbonSAFE will investigate and assess the economic feasibility of transport and injection of CO2 into the geologic storage zone as well as considerations vital to permitting and operation.

Wyoming CarbonSAFE will also investigate and assess the regulatory and business issues related to implementing a CO2 storage site in the region.

Policy and decision-making rely on the timely flow of objective information. Wyoming CarbonSAFE will provide information to state and local officials and area residents. Information on CO2 storage, project activities, and project results will also be on Internet websites, social media, and press releases. Project planning and implementation is ongoing, taking stakeholder considerations, feedback, and viewpoints into account.

What is the timeframe for this project?

The Wyoming CarbonSAFE Phase II will run from September 2018 to August 2020. If results indicate that a commercial CCS project may be both technically and economically feasible, the next step would be to seek funding for detailed characterization of both the potential storage sites and the economics to design and implement a commercial CCS project.

For more information, contact Scott A. Quillinan at the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources
Scott A. Quillinan
Director of Research, School of Energy Resources
Energy Innovation Center, 337
1020 E. Lewis St.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-6697

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