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Feds award University of Wyoming $11.2M to study underground CO2 storage

School of Energy Resources now leads four federally funded carbon dioxide storage initiatives.

Anna Robertson, associate research scientist in atmospheric sciences in the UW College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Gov. Mark Gordon, EPA Administrator Michael Regan and UW School of Energy Resources Executive Director Holly Krutka took part in energy research discussions at the University of Wyoming on Aug. 9, 2023. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

by Dustin Bleizeffer, WyoFile

The University of Wyoming will receive up to $11.2 million in federal support to test deep geologic layers in the south-central portion of the state to determine if they are suitable for carbon dioxide storage.

The university’s School of Energy Resources will lead the 2-year study in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and Williams Companies, which operates the Echo Springs natural gas processing plant south of Wamsutter as well as an extensive interstate pipeline network. 

The study will join three federal CarbonSAFE initiatives now underway at SER. State leaders hope the combined efforts will spawn a new carbon capture and storage industry that helps keep Wyoming fossil fuels in the nation’s energy mix while addressing climate change.

“The location for this project sits within a prolific gas field and, to date, there has been limited data of the deeper geologic formations to help us understand what the entire storage potential will be for the eastern side of the Greater Green River Basin,” said Fred McLaughlin, director of SER’s Center for Economic Geology Research. 

If the geology proves suitable, Williams could capture carbon dioxide from the Echo Springs gas plant, and potentially collect the greenhouse gas from other oil and natural gas sources to store up to 50 million metric tons of the planet-warming gas, according to SER.

The University of Wyoming will lead a feasibility study of storing carbon dioxide in deep geologic formations near the Echo Springs natural gas plant in south-central Wyoming. (Williams Companies)

For scale, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The SER’s other three CarbonSAFE projects include researching the feasibility of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from:

° The Dry Fork Station, a coal-fired power plant north of Gillette. 

° Calpine’s Hermiston Power Project, a Wyoming-sourced natural gas power plant in Hermiston, Oregon.

° Multiple trona processing facilities and a proposed “direct air capture” project near Green River for the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub project.

Researchers hope the four CarbonSAFE projects combined will identify a carbon dioxide storage capacity of 200 million metric tons. That compares to the state’s annual estimated carbon dioxide emissions of 54.6 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Wyoming is an attractive place to research and possibly deploy geologic carbon dioxide storage in part because the state has established a set of laws and regulations to accommodate the activity. Wyoming is one of only two states with primacy over the federal Class VI injection well permitting process, which is required to inject carbon dioxide underground. 

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, for the first time, began reviewing permit applications this year for carbon dioxide injection wells. Applications have been filed by Texas-based Frontier Carbon Solutions, a partner in the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub project in southwest Wyoming, and Tallgrass Energy for its Eastern Wyoming Sequestration Hub in Laramie County.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.