Small-Scale Field Tests

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting a number of small-scale field tests (injection of less than 500,000 million metric tons of CO2 per year) to explore various geologic CO2 storage opportunities within the United States and portions of Canada. DOE's small-scale field test efforts are designed to demonstrate that regional reservoirs have the capability to store thousands of years of CO2 emissions and provide the basis for larger volume, commercial-scale CO2 tests. The field studies focus on developing better understanding of 11 major types of geologic storage reservoir classes, each having their own unique opportunities and challenges. Understanding these different storage classes provides insight into how the systems influence fluids flow within these systems today and how CO2 in geologic storage might flow in the future. The different storage formation classes include deltaic, coal/shale, fluvial, alluvial, strandplain, turbidite, eolian, lacustrine, clastic shelf, carbonate shallow shelf, and reef. Basaltic interflow zones are also being considered as potential reservoirs. These storage reservoirs contain fluids that may include natural gas, oil, or saline water, any of which may impact CO2 storage differently. The data gathered during these small-scale tests provides valuable information regarding specific formations that have historically not been evaluated for the purpose of CO2storage. The Carbon Storage Program strategy includes an established set of field test objectives applicable to the small-scale projects:

  • Confirm storage resources and injectivity estimates for candidate storage target formations.
  • Validate the effectiveness of simulation models and monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) technologies to: 
  1. Predict and measure CO2 movement within geologic storage formations. 
  2. Confirm the integrity of the seal formations that prevent the upward movement of CO2.
  • Develop guidelines for well completion, operations, and abandonment to maximize CO2 storage potential and mitigate any potential release.
  • Develop public outreach plans and communicate the benefits of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to various stakeholders.
  • Satisfy the regulatory permitting requirements for small-scale CCS projects.
  • Gather information to improve estimates for storage capacity that could be used to update regional and national storage resource and capacity estimates.
RCSP Validation Phase Small-Scale Field Test Activities
RCSP Validation Phase Small-Scale Field Test Activities

Knowledge gained from these small-scale tests can be used to develop commercially viable technologies that will be integral to a comprehensive carbon management strategy.

The small-scale field tests have two components:

  • Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) Validation Phase (2005-2011): These geologic storage projects involved the evaluation of promising CO2 storage opportunities through field tests to develop understanding of injectivity, capacity, and storage potential of CO2 in the various geologic formations within various depositional environments. The experience gained and lessons learned from these small-scale tests are being utilized to: 
  1. Provide a foundation for implementation of the large-scale field tests in the development phase
  2. Develop best practices manuals
  3. Facilitate future CCS opportunities worldwide.
  • Another type of field test conducted during the validation phase is terrestrial carbon storage. These projects will identify and implement management practices to increase the amount of carbon stored in soils and plants.
Tracer injection at a small-scale saline formation test site
Tracer injection at a small-scale saline formation test site

Upcoming Small-Scale Field Tests: NETL has issued a competitive solicitation for additional small-scale geologic storage injection tests to help fill the remaining gaps in understanding the processes associated with geologic storage and monitoring. The selected projects are expected to address small-scale COinjection tests in various depositional systems that have not yet been fully investigated. They will demonstrate that CO2 storage sites have the potential to store regional CO2 emissions safely, permanently, and economically for hundreds of years. Awards are expected in 2011.

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