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CarbonSAFE Project advances with second underground carbon storage test well at Dry Fork

A drilling rig works to complete a test well at Dry Fork Station outside of Gillette. (School of Energy Resources/University of Wyoming)

Core samples from a second deep test well nearing completion at Dry Fork Station reportedly show the ground beneath the station is suitable for underground carbon storage, the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Project announced last week.

Storing carbon underground, or geologic carbon sequestration, is a method of securing carbon dioxide (CO2) within deep geologic formations with the goal being to prevent its release into the atmosphere, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Using this method, carbon dioxide can be captured from powerplants and other large industrial facilities, compressed to a fluid state, and injected deep underground into permeable and porous geological strata where it will remain isolated for long periods of time, per USGS.

An illustration showing the general concept of geologic carbon sequestration. (Screenshot/U.S. Geological Survey)

The second well at the Dry Fork Station, which was started adjacent to another test well completed in 2019, will allow researchers with the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Project to obtain valuable information to fully characterize a second carbon storage site in Wyoming, according to Holly Krutka, executive director of the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources (SER).

It’s another step toward building a carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) industry in the state, she said.

Drilling was completed at a total depth of 9,873 feet with researchers collecting 625 feet of core samples from nine different geological formations for analysis, which has since been concluded, according to a Jan. 5 CarbonSAFE press release.

“Results to date have shown that the geology located below the Dry Fork Station is suitable for commercial-scale geologic storage,” Scott Quillinan, SER senior director of research, said in a statement, adding that a tremendous amount of work has been completed to bring the research to the point that it is currently at.

“There are a lot of pieces that had to fall into place that have been built off the complex analysis data by SER scientists and our project team,” he continued. “As we continue to advance the project, we are grateful for the expertise and support found here in Wyoming.”

The Wyoming CarbonSAFE team stands for a picture at Dry Fork Station. (School of Energy Resources/University of Wyoming)

The second well, for the long-term, could be the best way to optimize the injection of carbon dioxide in the three deep geologic formations that were characterized beneath the Dry Fork Station, according to Jonathan McLaughlin, interim director for the SER Center for Economic Geology Research, adding that the CarbonSAFE team can now devise a testing program to measure the response of water injection into the ground.

A detailed baseline analysis will be completed as the project advances into its third stage, which includes monitoring seismic activity, water samples, and soil gas. The analysis will enable the research team to differentiate between naturally occurring and manmade carbon dioxide and to verify CO2 containment effectiveness, according to Charles Nye, an associate research scientist for the SER Center for Economic Geology Research.

Upon completion of the second well, both wells will be the first in Wyoming to meet the standards for carbon storage wells, or Class VI wells, using non-corrosive construction materials and an expanded subsurface testing program designed to meet Class VI permitting requirements, per McLaughlin, who said the team will work to complete Class VI applications to make the field site the first fully permitted and constructed carbon storage site in Wyoming.

“We are grateful for all of the support we have received to drive this innovative project- from the Department of Energy to the State of Wyoming and our project partners,” Krutka said in a statement. “Together, we are demonstrating that Wyoming has safe, secure CO2 storage options, and we appreciate the chance to engage with the public to discuss the opportunities for Wyoming and beyond afforded by the deployment of this exciting technology.”

An illustration depicting how carbon storage, or Class VI, wells are utilized for long-term storage to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. (Screenshot/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)


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