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Published May 18, 2023
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources (SER) to receive a $40.5 million award over three years to support the development of a new and expanded large-scale, commercial carbon storage project in the Greater Green River Basin.
The project will develop the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub in collaboration with Frontier Carbon Solutions LLC. This is the largest single competitive award in UW history.
In addition to the federal funding from DOE, the project will receive $10.1 million in cost sharing, bringing the total project to $50.6 million.
“I am thrilled to extend my sincere congratulations to the School of Energy Resources and the University of Wyoming on their recent funding awards from the Department of Energy to continue their work developing a commercial, multi-source, large-scale carbon capture and storage hub in the state,” Gov. Mark Gordon says. “As the governor of Wyoming, I am extremely proud of the innovative efforts and expertise of the team at the School of Energy Resources. Led by the school, Wyoming partners will now be developing CO2 storage hubs in the northeast and southwest sides of the state. Wyoming is grateful for the support of CO2 storage projects. The state has long advanced the research and regulatory structure to enable a robust carbon capture, use and storage sector.”
“The University of Wyoming is proud to play a lead role in this important collaboration that not only marks a major advancement in carbon capture and storage, but also a significant boost for the state’s economy,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “This public-private partnership illustrates what we can accomplish when we work together to secure federal funding for research and development projects, which is an important priority for the university.”
“The team at the School of Energy Resources is grateful for our partners at Frontier Carbon Solutions and across the state that led to this concept and proposal,” says SER Executive Director Holly Krutka. “We look forward to the growth in that partnership as we move forward on this groundbreaking project. Wyoming aims to implement CO2 capture, use and storage, and this project will be part of the foundation for deployment in the state and beyond.”
One of nine projects receiving a total of $242 million under the “Carbon Storage Validation and Testing” category of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the initiative is aimed at expanding carbon dioxide transportation and storage infrastructure to help significantly and responsibly reduce CO2 emissions from power generation and industrial operations.
The nine selected projects will focus on the detailed site characterization, planning and permitting stages of project development under Phase 3 of the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) Initiative, with capacities to securely store 50 million or more metric tons of CO2.
The project, which will be led by researchers in SER’s Center for Economic Geology Research along with Frontier, the owner and operator of the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub, will develop a permanent carbon management solution for the region’s critical hydrocarbon industries and support the sequestration of carbon from direct air capture.
“Currently, we have existing projects working to decarbonize fossil fuels like coal and oil and gas, so this is an exciting project for us because we get to help provide carbon management strategies for industrial sources as well,” says Center for Economic Geology Research Director Fred McLaughlin. “Providing a storage option for a direct air capture facility will have major impacts in advancing that technology forward and, with trona mining being unique to Wyoming, we have the potential to help decarbonize an entire industry.”
Zunsheng “John” Jiao, SER project manager; Charles Nye, a research scientist with the Center for Economic Geology Research; and Robby Rockey, Frontier president and co-CEO, will serve as co-principal investigators on the project.
“We have done a lot of prior work modeling and characterizing the formations in nearby regions, and this project will help us to complete that picture and provide a clear decarbonization strategy for the basin,” Jiao says. “By using our previous studies to develop and inform the storage feasibility assessment -- as well as the work that our partners and collaborators have contributed -- we are very optimistic about the future outcomes on this project.”
Over the last two years, Frontier has completed extensive project development to advance the viability of the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub and has submitted three applications for Underground Injection Control Class VI wells to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that are currently under review.
“Our goal at Frontier is to develop safe, permanent carbon storage solutions for Wyoming’s key industries,” Rockey says. “This award, representing the culmination of a multiyear effort with the team at the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources, is a tremendous step forward for all of us. We are grateful for the support across the state to develop this project and proud to highlight Wyoming’s leadership in carbon management.”
In addition to fully characterizing the storage complex, Phase 3 is intended to support the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act by conducting rigorous monitoring at the site.
“A large part of Phase 3 is focused on the monitoring and risk assessment in and around the site area to prove the safety of underground CO2 storage,” Nye adds. “This project is a great example of Wyoming’s commitment to protecting the natural world while diversifying our economy but, even more so, this project will show that Wyoming’s geology, regulators, industry and economy can produce a carbon-negative project which benefits the country.”
SER is currently administering a Phase 3 Wyoming CarbonSAFE project in the Powder River Basin adjacent to Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station. That project seeks to aid in decarbonizing the coal industry by sequestering CO2 emissions directly off the coal-fired power plant.
“This new project benefits from, and builds upon, the lessons learned at the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Project located at Dry Fork Station,” says Scott Quillinan, SER’s senior director of research. “This will be pivotal in demonstrating the transferability of the methodology to the industrial sector in southwest Wyoming.”
For more information on the Wyoming CarbonSAFE projects, visit www.uwyo.edu/cegr.
About Frontier Carbon Solutions
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Frontier Carbon Solutions was founded in 2021 to offer safe and permanent carbon storage services for industrial emitters across the Rocky Mountain region in the United States and Canada. Specializing in the development of carbon capture infrastructure and carbon marketing, the Frontier team provides turnkey emissions solution for its customers.