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Published August 19, 2020
Work toward a commercial-scale geological carbon dioxide storage complex near Gillette will move to the next stage next week with a geophysical survey covering about nine square miles of rural land around the Dry Fork Station power plant.
Seismic source “thumper” trucks will begin covering the area Monday, Aug. 24, generating vibrations using a metal plate that is pressed to the ground and shaken side to side. The vibrations travel deep into the earth and are reflected back to the surface, where sensors record the reflected vibration to give geophysicists a more complete picture of the underground formations.
“We will use this survey to help evaluate the rock layers nearly 2 miles below the surface, develop more accurate computer models to simulate where injected CO2 might travel, identify potential risks, and determine the best location for injection and monitoring wells,” says Scott Quillinan, the project manager and the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources’ (SER) director of research. “These benefits help the permitting authority decide whether the geologic storage project can move forward.”
UW, Basin Electric Power Cooperative and other partners are working to develop a site near Basin Electric’s 385-megawatt Dry Fork Station and the Wyoming Integrated Test Center to store over 50 million metric tons of CO2 underground. The three-year, $19.1 million project is the third phase under the Department of Energy’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) initiative, which seeks to help mitigate CO2 emissions from consumption of fossil fuels.
The geophysical survey, similar to many conducted across Wyoming by companies involved in hydrocarbon extraction, will involve four seismic trucks and sensors inserted into the ground every 220 feet along lines spaced 660 feet apart. At 220-foot intervals, the trucks will stop and vibrate the ground for one to two minutes.
A low-level noise similar to that of a passing truck is generated; a person standing 100 feet from the source will not feel the ground vibration. The trucks will not vibrate the ground within 300 feet of buildings and other infrastructure.
“Safety and courtesy are top priorities,” says Quillinan, who notes that landowners are being contacted to request permission to drive vehicles and place sensors on their land. “Care will be taken to avoid or minimize environmental impacts and maintain normal traffic flow. The goal is to complete the work with minimal disruption.”
Over the next three years, the project partners intend to conduct rigorous, commercial-scale surface and subsurface testing, data assessment and modeling; prepare and file permits for construction with Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality; integrate this project with a separately funded CO2 capture study by Membrane Technology and Research Inc. (MTR); and conduct the required National Environmental Policy Act analyses in support of eventual commercialization of the site.
Joining SER’s Center for Economic Geology Research, Basin Electric and MTR as partners in the project are the Energy and Environmental Research Center; Advanced Resources International Inc.; Carbon GeoCycle Inc.; Denbury Resources Inc.; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures LLC; and Schlumberger.
Other UW participants are the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, the College of Business and the College of Law.