According to the University of Wyoming, drilling has begun on a test well at Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette to determine the suitability of underground geologic formations for commercial carbon dioxide (CO2) storage.
The drilling signals the beginning of Phase II of the Wyoming Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) project at Dry Fork Station, an effort led by the University of Wyoming and other partners to determine the feasibility of establishing a commercial-scale geological CO2 storage complex in Wyoming.
The two-year, $12.25 million project includes cost-sharing contributions from its partners, totaling about $2.47 million.
Through a competitive bid process, Gillette-based Cyclone Drilling was selected to drill the stratigraphic test well, located about a quarter of a mile south of the Dry Fork Station power plant and the Wyoming Integrated Test Center.
The well will be drilled to a depth of 10,200 feet below the land surface over the course of 30 days. Researchers will retrieve about 840 feet of core from potential storage reservoirs and from the rocks that seal the reservoirs. Oilfield services company Schlumberger will aid in the collection of high-resolution geophysical data and brine samples from each of the potential storage formations.
“Project operations are going exceedingly well, thanks to the help of Basin Electric, Western Fuels and the rest of the team members,” Fred McLaughlin, project manager and senior geologist with the UW School of Energy Resources’ Center of Economic Geology Research, said in a press release.
The project team also plans to collect 12.5 square miles of 3-D seismic data centered on the stratigraphic test well.
“Combined, the 3-D seismic information and data from the stratigraphic test well will allow us to assess the feasibility of storing CO2 underground in this geological formation,” said Scott Quillinan, director of research with the School of Energy Resources.
According to Quillinan, no CO2 will be injected into the well during this phase.
The project is funded by a $9.77 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and its partners, including UW, Basin Electric, Wyoming Municipal Power Association, Advanced Resources International Inc., Schlumberger, CarbonGeoCycle Inc., and the Energy and Environmental Research Center.
The (CarbonSAFE) initiative seeks to help mitigate CO2 emissions from consumption of fossil fuels. Project partners hope to demonstrate that over 50 million metric tons of CO2 could be stored underground near the 385-megawatt Dry Fork Station.
Along with other project sites, the Dry Fork Station project is meant to be part of an integrated carbon capture and storage complex to be constructed and permitted for operation around 2025.
The Powder River Basin produces about 40 percent of all coal consumed in the United States, and it is also home to existing CO2 pipelines for oil and gas operations, including fields suitable for use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.
The Wyoming CarbonSAFE project was the topic of well-attended community outreach meetings in Gillette and Sheridan in February.