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UW Wins DOE Grant for Further Study of Rock Springs Uplift

September 26, 2014
John Kaszuba Carbon Sequestration

Years of work by University of Wyoming researchers have characterized a geological formation in southwest Wyoming as a potentially secure site for storing carbon dioxide underground.

Now, a new grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will allow an interdisciplinary team of UW scientists to further study how injecting CO2 into the Rock Springs Uplift would affect underground conditions.

The $1.1 million grant, which takes effect Oct. 1, will help fund a three-year research project to predict changes in the subsurface during and after injection of CO2. Research has shown that two deep saline aquifers in Sweetwater County’s Rock Springs Uplift could store 26 billion tons of CO2 over 50 years as part of a future carbon capture and storage operation.

“The goal of this research is to improve our understanding of the geomechanical effect of CO2 injection on two types of reservoir rocks, sandstone and limestone/dolomite,” says John Kaszuba, associate professor in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics and the School of Energy Resources (SER). “The ability to predict geomechanical behavior in response to CO2 injection, if successful, could increase the accuracy of subsurface models that predict the integrity of the storage reservoir.”

UW researchers in 2009 began a study of the Rock Springs Uplift, with funding from the Department of Energy and the state of Wyoming, to determine its potential for storing CO2. UW’s Carbon Management Institute, one of SER’s centers of excellence, led the effort, which included the drilling of a 14,000-foot test well. The project resulted in a thorough characterization of the Rock Springs Uplift as a potential commercial-level geological CO2 storage site.

“The new research will build upon the strong foundation of studies that have been completed on the Rock Springs Uplift, such as field work and subsurface characterization of lithology, structure, mechanical stratigraphy, fracture systems and in situ stress,” Kaszuba says.

The research also could provide insights for the oil and gas industry, which uses CO2 injection to enhance the recovery of oil and gas.

The team led by Kaszuba includes scientists from three UW departments: Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Associate Professor Vladimir Alvarado; Department of Geology and Geophysics Senior Lecturer Erin Campbell-Stone; Department of Geology and Geophysics Assistant Professor Dario Grana; and Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering Assistant Professor Kam Weng Ng. Grana, also a member of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering faculty, and Kaszuba hold joint appointments in SER.

The researchers plan to use a variety of tools -- including lab experiments on core samples taken from the Rock Springs Uplift, computer modeling and seismic data -- to predict the underground impacts of CO2 injection at the site. That information is important in solidifying the suitability of the Rock Springs Uplift as a site for commercial CO2 sequestration.

“We know the potential is there for successful large-scale CO2 storage in the Rock Springs Uplift. The new research should provide insights to assure the feasibility of such a project,” Kaszuba says. “This is another important step toward keeping Wyoming at the forefront of carbon capture and storage technology.”

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