CCS and Power Systems

Carbon Storage - Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships/Injection Projects

Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership - Phase II and Phase III

Performer: Montana State University

Project No: FC26-05NT42587

Program Background and Project Benefits

The U.S. Department of Energy Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) Initiative consists of seven partnerships. The purpose of these partnerships is to determine the best regional approaches for permanently storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in geologic formations. Each RCSP includes stakeholders comprised of state and local agencies, private companies, electric utilities, universities, and nonprofit organizations. These partnerships are the core of a nationwide network helping to establish the most suitable technologies, regulations, and infrastructure needs for carbon storage. The partnerships include more than 400 distinct organizations, spanning 43 states and four Canadian provinces, and are developing the framework needed to validate geologic carbon storage technologies. The RCSPs are unique in that each one is determining which of the numerous geologic carbon storage approaches are best suited for their specific regions of the country and are also identifying regulatory and infrastructure requirements needed for future commercial deployment. The RCSP Initiative is being implemented in three phases, the Characterization Phase, Validation Phase, and Development Phase. In September 2003, the Characterization Phase began with the seven partnerships working to determine the locations of CO2 sources and to assess suitable locations for CO2 storage. The Validation Phase (2005–2012) focused on evaluating promising CO2 storage opportunities through a series of small scale field projects in the seven partnership regions. Finally, the Development Phase (2008-2020+) activities are proceeding and will continue evaluating how CO2 capture, transportation, injection, and storage can be achieved safely, permanently, and economically at large scales. These field projects are providing tremendous insight regarding injectivity, capacity, and containment of CO2 in the various geologic formations identified by the partnerships. Results and assessments from these efforts will assist commercialization efforts for future carbon  storage projects in North America.

The Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP), led by Montana State University, includes more than 60 organizations and covers Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, South Dakota, eastern Washington, and Wyoming. The six states in the Big Sky Partnership region emit 146 million metric tons of CO2 annually stationary sources. There are large saline formations in the Big Sky region east of the Rocky Mountains and basalt formations in the western part capable of storing many billions of metric tons of CO2, equivalent to many hundreds of years’ worth of regional CO2 emissions. The BSCSP land area also includes vast acreage of agricultural, range, and forest lands that can be managed for greater storage of soil and biomass carbon. The Big Sky region is also rich in energy resources including coal, oil and gas, and renewables.


  • Improved understanding of the Kevin Dome geologic feature, which has great potential to serve as a northwestern U.S. carbon storage center because of its unique geologic properties, proximity to present and future sources of anthropogenic CO2, and similarity to other large domes in Montana.

  • Refinement of regional CO2 resource estimates, given that Kevin Dome and the Duperow formation are regionally significant geologic features.

  • Enhanced understanding of geochemistry related to CO2 exposure. Production well cores will provide geochemical information from millions of years of CO2 exposure and injection and monitoring well data will provide information on geochemical changes over the project timescale.

  • Improved understanding of geomechanical and geophysical characteristics of cap rocks in naturally occurring reservoirs and application of that data to potential geo-storage sites.

  • The ability to test advances in surface seismic imaging and pressure changes to monitor reservoir changes during removal of CO2 from an existing reservoir.

  • Improved understanding of the dome’s potential as a CO2 gas storage reservoir. First, to store CO2 captured from new clean energy plants, and second, to provide CO2 to mature oil fields in the immediate region of the dome for enhanced oil recovery projects.

Goals and Objectives

The primary objective of the DOE’s Carbon Storage Program is to develop technologies to safely and permanently store CO2 and reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions without adversely affecting energy use or hindering economic growth. The Programmatic goals of Carbon Storage research are to: (1) develop and validate technologies to ensure 99 percent storage permanence; (2) develop technologies to improve reservoir storage efficiency while ensuring containment effectiveness; (3) support industry’s ability to predict CO2 storage capacity in geologic formations to within 30 percent; and (4) develop Best Practices Manuals (BPMs) for monitoring, verification, accounting, and assessment; site screening, selection, and initial characterization; public outreach, well management activities, and risk analysis and simulation.

The goal of this large volume CO2 storage field project is to demonstrate that significant saline reservoirs, including some in geologic structural domes, are present in northern Montana and these storage formations are viable targets for storing a large fraction of the Big Sky region’s CO2 emissions. The overall research objectives include improving the understanding of injectivity, storage resources, and storage potential in a regionally significant formation and promoting the commercialization of future carbon storage projects. Specific operational objectives include:

  • Safely procuring, transporting, injecting and monitoring up to one million metric tons of CO2 into the target formation (Duperow) within Kevin Dome in northwest Montana.

  • Understanding the behavior of the injected CO2 within the formation and verifying and improving predictive models of CO2 behavior and monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) methodology.

  • Assessing and managing project risks during and after injection operations.

  • Disseminating information through public outreach and key stakeholder briefings.

  • Refining the regional characterization of carbon storage formations, sources, infrastructure, and storage estimates in geologic and terrestrial systems.

  • Developing best practices from lessons learned.

  • Investigating domes as early-stage targets for commercial storage.

Project Details