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UW School of Energy Resources, Basin Electric Carbon Storage Project Advances with $15.2M in Federal Funding

April 23, 2020

Plans for a commercial-scale geological carbon dioxide storage complex near Gillette have taken a major step forward with its selection for a $15.2 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources (SER), 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. No CO2 will be injected during this stage. The Dry Fork Station project and others selected by the agency aim to develop integrated carbon capture and storage complexes that are constructed and permitted for operation between 2025 and 2030.

“We have successfully demonstrated the feasibility of safely, permanently and economically storing CO2 in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the largest coal-producing region in the nation,” says Scott Quillinan, the project manager and SER’s director of research. “Now, we’re moving forward with final testing to confirm our findings -- and the pursuit of necessary state and federal permits to move to the final stage, which is commercialization and construction.”

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.

“Basin Electric has always been passionate about coal because of its ability to remain reliable whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing,” says Paul Sukut, Basin Electric CEO and general manager. “CarbonSAFE has exciting potential to find permanent storage for CO2 through this geologic testing. This work is an important step in keeping our baseload viable in a carbon-constrained environment.”

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; and Schlumberger. Other UW participants are the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, the College of Business and the College of Law.

In addition to the $15.2 million in federal funding, Basin Electric is contributing $1.5 million, and UW’s cost-sharing contribution is $2.4 million.

The Powder River Basin produces about 40 percent of all coal consumed in the United States, and it also is home to existing CO2 pipelines for oil and gas operations, including fields suitable for use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

“The award of the Phase 3 CarbonSAFE project is a tremendous milestone that further demonstrates Wyoming’s commitment to innovative carbon management,” SER Executive Director Holly Krutka says. “This award is based on years of dedication by faculty, staff, stakeholders around the state and project partners. I thank all involved for their commitment to date, and I look forward to this group continuing to demonstrate excellence for years to come.”

Joining Quillinan as co-principal investigators for SER are Kipp Coddington, director of energy economics and policy, and Fred McLaughlin, senior research scientist.

The mission of UW’s Center for Economic Geology Research (CEGR) includes addressing challenges in Wyoming’s fossil fuel and mineral industries. Research projects at CEGR explore opportunities to use Wyoming’s distinctive geology for energy storage, critical materials development, CO2 sequestration, improved oil and gas recovery, and more. CEGR is dedicated to developing these opportunities to diversify Wyoming’s economy and to maintain competitiveness in a low-carbon energy future.

About Basin Electric Power Cooperative

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Bismarck, N.D., is a consumer-owned, regional cooperative that generates and transmits electricity to 141 member rural electric systems in nine states: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. These member systems distribute electricity to about 3 million consumers.

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