UW and Partners to Create Geologic Database for Carbon Storage

UW and Partners to Create Geologic Database for Carbon Storage

University of Wyoming News, July 12, 2023

A collaborative project proposed by the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources’ Center for Economic Geology Research (CEGR), the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will create a data-verified Class VI geologic database providing a unique service to carbon storage developers and regulatory agencies for the state of Wyoming.

To be funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, the award will advance DOE’s regional initiative to accelerate carbon management deployment.

The proposed database will provide geotechnical information that has been compiled and verified from established, public geologic databases and entities. It also will include a record of key social considerations and community benefits that developers should consider when preparing Class VI well permit applications to DEQ.

“Extensive geologic data exist to generate thorough, accurate Class VI well applications, but locating those data can be extremely time consuming,” says Erin Campbell, Wyoming state geologist and WSGS director. “The Wyoming State Geological Survey, Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, UW School of Energy Resources and other state and national organizations host a wealth of subsurface data and maps. By referencing those resources into a single, comprehensive database specifically relevant to underground carbon storage, we can substantially streamline the geologic portion of the application process for industry developers.”

Once completed, the nearly $2 million project will provide carbon developers and DEQ with a comprehensive database to utilize for decision-making while applying for and issuing Class VI permits for the injection of carbon dioxide for geologic sequestration purposes.

“This tool will be extremely beneficial assisting us in making decisions for permits,” says Groundwater Section Program Manager Lily Barkau in DEQ’s Water Quality Division. “The availability of this data in a single trusted database will facilitate the completeness and technical review of the Class VI permit application and, in turn, reduce uncertainty related to permitting.”

Wyoming is a leader when it comes to carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) with a proven track record of managing natural resource development. Wyoming and North Dakota are the only states in the nation that currently have primacy granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Primacy allows individual states to regulate CO2 injection wells in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Wyoming is ahead of the curve in terms of permit regulation,” Barkau says. “With our existing regulatory framework, experience and knowledge in working with Class I deep disposal injection wells, we are uniquely qualified to regulate these wells and to do so in a way that is both environmentally responsible but will also allow for growth opportunities.”

Researchers in CEGR have been working for nearly two decades on carbon storage, positioning the state and industry for success and early deployment of the technology.

“We have already done a substantial amount of work characterizing the subsurface, particularly in the Greater Green River Basin,” says CEGR Director Fred McLaughlin. “As one of the first states with Class VI primacy, Wyoming is experiencing a carbon storage and management industry boom. Multiple industries have begun investigating and developing carbon storage hubs throughout Wyoming, with much attention being given to southeast Wyoming.”

The initial focus of the geologic site characterization database will be on three carbon storage hubs identified in Sweetwater County within the Greater Green River Basin. The methodology developed will allow the database to be expanded to other focus areas of carbon storage hubs in Wyoming, specifically the Powder River and Denver Julesburg basins.

“Perhaps the greatest advantage of all for this project is that we are going to be streamlining information, procedures and practices that will expedite the industry and overcome some of the economic obstacles on the path toward commercialization,” McLaughlin says.

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