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The state of Wyoming's economic future could hinge on the success of carbon capture and storage capabilities.
That was the message delivered Wednesday night at the Carbon Management Institute's first town meeting on Phase I of the Wyoming Carbon Underground Storage Project (WY-CUSP), which will produce a detailed site characterization of two deep saline aquifers in the Rock Springs Uplift in Sweetwater County for potential pilot- and commercial-scale CO2 sequestration.
Speaking to local residents, state legislators and industry representatives, CMI Director Ron Surdam stressed the importance of WY-CUSP and answered questions during the two-hour informational meeting inside the City Council Chambers in Rock Springs.
"The demonstration of successful geological CO2 storage is particularly vital to Wyoming. The coal industry annually supplies $1.2 billion to the state's economy, in addition to providing stable jobs for residents of the state," Surdam said. "Given the likelihood that federal regulations will soon regulate CO2 emissions, Wyoming -- as the nation's top coal-producing and coal-exporting state -- must quickly achieve carbon capture and storage capabilities."
The CMI, part of the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources (SER), is managing the $16.9 million WY-CUSP project on behalf of researchers, administrators and staff from UW, the Wyoming State Geological Survey and industry partners Baker Hughes, Geokinetics, Emtek and ExxonMobil.
Preliminary data from prior research indicates that the Rock Springs Uplift could be capable of storing 26 billion tons of CO2 or about 750 million tons over 50 years. It has been targeted for carbon storage due to the geological setting and its proximity to the Jim Bridger Power Plant, the state's largest source of anthropogenic CO2.
Baker Hughes will provide well design, well construction and project management expertise to the project, a pioneering research effort that revolves around the study of the Weber and Madison formations, both some 12,000 feet below the ground surface.
The Phase I test well will provide crucial data, core and cutting samples and will be completed as a long-term microseismic monitoring well.
"We are delighted to be part of the world-class Wyoming-CUSP project," said Paul Williams, director of Baker Hughes' CO2 storage projects. "Our sophisticated downhole measurement technology will provide detailed rock property data to determine potential storage reservoir volume, integrity and injectivity."
He added, "Our objectives are to safely drill the test well while satisfying all regulatory and environmental requirements and, of course, providing a full characterization dataset for the proposed storage zones and overlying caprock sealing layers."
Site characterization is a process that includes conducting geophysical surveys, drilling test wells and using advanced computer models to predict where injected CO2 will migrate, how efficiently the storage volume will be filled and how well the storage site will perform into the future.
A geologic site ideal for CO2 sequestration would offer large storage capacity per unit of reservoir volume, caprock capable of preventing leakage and escape, minimal seismic activity and the absence of other valuable natural resources such as oil and gas.
"The WY-CUSP team at the UW Carbon Management Institute is working diligently to demonstrate commercial-scale geological CO2 storage potential on the Rock Springs Uplift and elsewhere in Wyoming," Surdam said.
The first phase of WY-CUSP began in December 2009 and is scheduled to be complete December 2012.