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Wyoming entities will create nearly $2M carbon sequestration database

The University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources' Center for Economic Geology Research, the Wyoming State Geological Survey and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality proposed the collaborative project that's slated to cost nearly $2 million, according to a UW news release.

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GILLETTE, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming and Wyoming state partners will create a geologic database that will benefit carbon storage developers and regulatory agencies in the state.

The University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources’ Center for Economic Geology Research, the Wyoming State Geological Survey and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality proposed the collaborative project, which is slated to cost nearly $2 million, according to a UW news release. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Management will provide a portion of the funding.

Upon completion, the project will provide carbon developers and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality with a database for decision-making while applying for and issuing Class VI permits to inject carbon dioxide for geologic sequestration, according to the release. The database will provide geotechnical information that’s compiled and verified from public geologic databases and entities. The database will include details on social considerations and community benefits that developers should consider when preparing Class VI well permit applications for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

Wyoming state geologist and Wyoming State Geological Survey director Erin Campbell said in the release that while there’s a lot of data available to generate comprehensive, accurate well applications. The Wyoming State Geological Survey, Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, UW School of Energy Resources and other state and national organizations host a wealth of subsurface data and maps.

However, finding that information takes a ton of time, she said.

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)

“By referencing those resources into a single, comprehensive database specifically relevant to underground carbon storage, we can substantially streamline the geologic portion of the application process for industry developers,” Campbell said.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Groundwater Section Program manager, Lily Barkau, said having the data in a single, trusted database will facilitate the completeness and technical review of permit applications and reduce uncertainty related to permitting.

Wyoming and North Dakota are the only states that currently have primacy from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the news release. With primacy, the states can regulate CO2 injection wells in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Wyoming is ahead of the curve in terms of permit regulation,” Barkau said. “With our existing regulatory framework, experience and knowledge in working with Class I deep disposal injection wells, we are uniquely qualified to regulate these wells and to do so in a way that is both environmentally responsible but will also allow for growth opportunities.”

Researchers from the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources’ Center for Economic Geology Research have been working for nearly 20 years to set Wyoming up for success and early deployment of carbon storage technology.

The center’s director, Fred McLaughlin, said they’ve already done a lot of work to characterize the subsurface, especially in the Greater Green River Basin.

“As one of the first states with Class VI primacy, Wyoming is experiencing a carbon storage and management industry boom,” McLaughlin said. “Multiple industries have begun investigating and developing carbon storage hubs throughout Wyoming, with much attention being given to southeast Wyoming.”

At first, the focus of the geologic site characterization database will be on three carbon storage hubs in Sweetwater County in the Greater Green River Basin, the release said. Then, the database will expand to the Powder River and Denver Julesburg basins.

McLaughlin said streamlining the information, procedures and practices will expedite the industry and overcome some of the economic obstacles for commercialization.

County 17 has asked UW, McLaughlin and Campbell to specify how the project is being funded, how it will benefit taxpayers and when the database will roll out.

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