Carbon Storage Atlas
- Project Highlights
- Unexpected Findings
- Advice for Storage Operators
- Project Outreach
- Project Commercialization
- The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership has collaborated with a growing membership of more than 120 industry, government, and research organizations to encourage the commercial deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) as an essential technology to manage carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- PCOR Partnership research has demonstrated the outstanding potential of the region for CCUS deployment with: (1) major industrial and power sector emission sources; (2) established and expanding transport infrastructure; (3) extensive fossil fuel resources; and (4) large, stable sedimentary basins containing significant storage resource potential.
- The PCOR Partnership has developed an adaptive management approach to demonstrate the technical assessment and successful monitoring of CO2 geologic storage, including at commercial scale and encompassing both dedicated storage in deep saline formations and associated storage incidental to enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
- Adoption and development of communications best practices have allowed the PCOR Partnership to increase public awareness of CCUS across the region through an active, multifaceted outreach program.
Seismic surveys are undertaken using a surface array of geophones to measure sound waves created by specialized surface vibrations or very small explosions and reflected from subsurface layers of rock. When calibrated with geological records from wells, 3D seismic survey datasets can often provide an unparalleled analysis of the deep subsurface. Moreover, repeat 3D surveys are capable of tracking fluid migration and pressure evolution in storage reservoirs.
However, seismic surveys have a vertical limit of resolution. The reservoir at the Bell Creek oil field is typically 15 meters (~49 feet) or less in thickness, so the outcome of applying this monitoring technique through the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership was uncertain. Thankfully, the investment in repeat 3D seismic surveys yielded outstanding results, allowing carbon dioxide (CO2) migration to be tracked and adding value to the oilfield operations by illuminating hitherto unknown geologic features of the reservoir.
The technical assessment of carbon dioxide (CO2) geologic storage requires a structured and iterative process to inform investment decisions, regulatory applications, and operational management. Addressing this requirement, the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership developed an Adaptive Management Approach (AMA) that integrates the essential technical elements of storage assessment—site characterization; modeling and simulation; risk assessment; and monitoring, verification and accounting (MVA)—with typical project life cycle phases. Published best practices manuals for each of these essential technical elements1, 2, 3, 4 and the overall AMA process5 provide guidance based on PCOR Partnership experience and learnings, not just for technical specialists, but also for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) stakeholders such as investors, business managers, and regulators.
The design and operation of an MVA program is an example of the complex decisions that a storage operator will need to make. A number of factors, mostly site-specific, will frame the formulation of a successful MVA strategy. Factors include:
- Applicable regulatory requirements.
- Geologic setting.
- Land use and accessibility.
- Sensitive environmental receptors.
- Available infrastructure (e.g., existing wells).
- Budget constraints.
Monitoring may be arbitrarily divided into two types: deep-focused techniques that track CO2 injection and migration in the reservoir(s) storage complex and check for any impacts on adjacent strata and, shallow-focused techniques employed to check that environmental receptors (e.g., groundwater, surface water, or habitats) are not adversely impacted by storage operations. Typically, at least one full seasonal cycle of monitoring is required to establish baseline conditions in shallow or surface environments. Baseline conditions in the storage complex and adjacent strata are less prone to natural fluctuations, and in some cases, characterization data may adequately define pre-injection conditions.
Monitoring programs for dedicated and associated storage projects may share many common objectives, but the design of monitoring programs may be influenced by markedly varying circumstances and risk profiles. By definition, associated storage is incidental to enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations that already undertake routine monitoring for site-management purposes. Therefore, operators will need to decide what (if any) additional efforts are required to demonstrate associated storage. Dedicated storage projects will likely involve much fewer wellbores, so geophysical techniques capable of making measurements away from wells and across the 3D volume of the deep subsurface will be of increased importance. Ultimately, the selection of individual monitoring techniques will be based on site-specific factors and sound engineering judgment following established best practices.
1 Azzolina, N.A., Nakles, D.V., Ayash, S.C., Wildgust, N., Peck, W.D., and Gorecki, C.D., 2017, PCOR Partnership best practices manual for subsurface technical risk assessment of geologic CO2 storage projects: Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Phase III Task 13 Deliverable D103 for U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC26-05NT42592, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Energy & Environmental Research Center, August.
2 Glazewski, K.A., Aulich, T.R., Wildgust, N., Nakles, D.V., Hamling, J.A., Burnison, S.A., Livers, A.J., Salako, O., Sorensen, J.A., Ayash, S.C., Pekot, L.J., Bosshart, N.W., Gorz, A.J., Peck, W.D., and Gorecki, C.D., 2017, Best practices manual (BPM) for site characterization: Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Phase III Task 4 Deliverable D35 for U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC26-05NT42592, EERC Publication 2017-EERC-06-08, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Energy & Environmental Research Center, March.
3 Glazewski, K.A., Aulich, T.R., Wildgust, N., Nakles, D.V., Azzolina, N.A., Hamling, J.A., Burnison, S.A., Livers-Douglas, A.J., Peck, W.D., Klapperich, R.J., Sorensen, J.A., Ayash, S.C., Gorecki, C.D., Steadman, E.N., Harju, J.A., Stepan, D.J., Kalenze, N.S., Musich, M.A., Leroux, K.M., and Pekot, L.J., 2018, Best practices manual – monitoring for CO2 storage: Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Phase III Task 9 Deliverable D51 for U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC26-05NT42592, EERC Publication 2018-EERC-03-15; Grand Forks, North Dakota, Energy & Environmental Research Center, March.
4 Bosshart, N.W., Pekot, L.J., Wildgust, N., Gorecki, C.D., Torres, J.A., Jin, L., Ge, J., Jiang, T., Heebink, L.V., Kurz, M.D., Dalkhaa, C., Peck, W.D., and Burnison, S.A., and 2018, Best practices for modeling and simulation of CO2 storage: Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Phase III Task 9 Deliverable D69 for U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC26-05NT42592, EERC Publication 2018-EERC-03-13, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Energy & Environmental Research Center, May.
5 Ayash, S.C., Nakles, D.V., Peck, W.D., Sorensen, J.A., Glazewski, K.A., Aulich, T.R., Klapperich, R.J., Azzolina, N.A., and Gorecki, C.D., 2016, Best practice for the commercial deployment of carbon dioxide geologic storage—adaptive management approach: Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership Phase III Task 13 Deliverable D102/Milestone M59 for U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC26-05NT42592, EERC Publication 2017-EERC-05-01, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Energy & Environmental Research Center, August.
Developing public support for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is an essential component of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSP) Initiative. Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership outreach has focused on educational activities and products intended to raise awareness about carbon dioxide (CO2) geologic storage and CCUS to three types of audiences: members of the public across the region, key audiences across the region, and targeted audiences from the vicinity of large-scale storage projects. Examples of key audiences include regulatory agencies, policy makers, industry, and educators.
Spreading the Word
The core approach taken by the PCOR Partnership to outreach comprises three methods, all backed up by a public website (www.undeerc.org/pcor/) with comprehensive information:
- “Take it on the road” – Participation at meetings and events throughout the region, such as educational workshops, with an emphasis on giving presentations and distributing PCOR Partnership products.
- “Take it to prime time” – The PCOR Partnership has maintained a long-standing collaboration with Prairie Public Broadcasting (PPB) to provide educational activities and award-winning documentary productions. Seven original documentaries have aired on more than 400 telecasts across 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces.
- The latest documentary, “Coal: Engine of Change,” premiered March 27, 2018, on PPB and was subsequently honored in 2019 with a Silver Telly Award in the Education category and a Bronze Telly Award in the History category.
- “Take it with you” – Scientific papers and presentations, reports, and posters have informed technical audiences across the world. Products such as the PPB documentaries, the PCOR Partnership Regional Atlas, fact sheets, and non-technical presentations and posters tell the story of CCUS for a general audience.
- PCOR Partnership outreach activities have been tracked using a geographic information system (GIS) to measure the geographic spread and impact of regional efforts to raise awareness of CCUS.
The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, with more than 120 members drawn from industry, government, and research organizations, has provided the premier regional forum for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Several PCOR Partnership members already operate, or participate in, commercial CCUS projects across the region: the Quest project in Alberta; the Boundary Dam, Aquistore, and Weyburn facilities in Saskatchewan; the Dakota Gasification plant in North Dakota; and the Bell Creek oil field in Montana. Knowledge gained and networking opportunities provided through membership of the PCOR Partnership have been important factors in the progression of emerging CCUS projects in the region, namely Project Tundra and the Red Trail Energy carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.
Two options for carbon dioxide (CO2) geologic storage may support CCUS projects: associated storage, incidental to enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations, and dedicated storage in deep saline formations, where the sole purpose of CO2 injection is emission mitigation.
EOR at Weyburn has provided a revenue stream for CO2 capture at the Dakota Gasification and Boundary Dam facilities and an essential component of the business case for those commercial projects. EOR at the Bell Creek oil field uses CO2 captured just outside the present PCOR Partnership region at the Shute Creek and Lost Cabin gas-processing plants in Wyoming. PCOR Partnership research has demonstrated that from a technical perspective, numerous oil fields across several states and provinces in the region are suitable for CO2-EOR, with more than 3 billion metric tons of estimated associated storage resource combined with the potential to produce more than 7 billion barrels of incremental oil. The technical assessment at Bell Creek undertaken by the PCOR Partnership between 2013 and 2018 has successfully monitored more than 6 million metric tons of injected CO2, demonstrating the effectiveness and secure nature of associated storage. The recent advent of 45Q tax credits, with payments of up to $35 per metric ton for captured CO2 used for EOR, has strengthened the business case in the United States for CCUS deployment with associated storage.
Commercial CO2-EOR has, to date, been applied predominantly in conventional oil reservoirs. However, both residual oil zones (ROZs) and unconventional reservoirs, such as the Bakken Formation of the Williston Basin, offer the potential for significant regional opportunities for EOR and associated storage. Pilot projects in the Bakken and other unconventional oil reservoirs, injecting both CO2 and comparable rich gas mixtures, are making progress toward technology commercialization.
The Quest and Aquistore projects in Canada provide dedicated storage for commercial CCUS projects in Canada. In the United States, 45Q tax credits of up to $50/Mt offer potential business case justification for dedicated storage supporting CCUS; certain types of industry, including ethanol production, can also use dedicated storage and CCUS to qualify products for low-carbon fuel standards in markets such as Oregon and California. Dedicated storage may also be important for projects where demand for EOR fluctuates below capture rates; Aquistore provides a working example of how dedicated storage can bring flexibility to a CCUS project and ensure all captured CO2 is stored. A supportive regulatory environment is also important for the development of dedicated storage projects, and Class VI primacy for North Dakota has been an important milestone for projects in the state, such as Project Tundra and the Red Trail Energy CCS project.
Infrastructure, most notably pipelines, provides an essential element of CCUS planning and deployment. Current construction of the Alberta carbon trunk line and extension of the Greencore pipeline from Montana into North Dakota point to increased confidence in CCUS investment and project deployment in the PCOR Partnership region.