Drilling Begins on Carbon Storage Test Well Near Gillette

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Dirt work takes place in preparation for the drilling of a test well close to the Dry Fork Station power plant near Gillette, part of a project to determine the feasibility of establishing a commercial-scale carbon dioxide storage complex. (Basin Electric Power Cooperative Photo)

LARAMIE– Drilling has begun on a test well near Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette to determine the suitability of the underground geologic formations for commercial carbon dioxide (CO2) storage.

The work is part of the Wyoming CarbonSAFE project, led by the University of Wyoming and other partners to determine the feasibility of establishing a commercial-scale geological CO2storage complex in Wyoming.

Gillette-based Cyclone Drilling was selected through a competitive bid process 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.

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Well to Be Drilled 10,200 Feet Below the Surface

Over the course of 30 days, the well will be drilled to a depth of 10,200 feet below the land surface. From the well, researchers will retrieve about 840 feet of core from potential storage reservoirs and from the rocks that seal the reservoirs.

Team partner Schlumberger will aid in the collection of a high-resolution geophysical log suite and help to collect 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,” says Fred McLaughlin, project manager and senior geologist with the UW School of Energy Resources’ Center of Economic Geology Research.

Later this year, the project team 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,” says Scott Quillinan, director of research with the School of Energy Resources.

Once the data are collected, the well will be closed and the land restored according to Wyoming regulations. No CO2will be injected into the well during this phase.

Team partner Basin Electric, which completed the dirt work in preparation for the project, will lead the reclamation process. CarbonGeoCycle Inc. is handling well site management.

Project Totals $12.25 Million

The project is funded by a $9.77 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and its partners include UW, Basin Electric, Wyoming Municipal Power Association, Advanced Resources International Inc., Schlumberger, CarbonGeoCycle Inc., and the Energy and Environmental Research Center. They hope to demonstrate that over 50 million metric tons of CO2 could be stored underground near the 385-megawatt Dry Fork Station.

The two-year, $12.25 million project includes cost-sharing contributions from the partners totaling about $2.47 million.

The grant for the project comes from the DOE’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) initiative, which seeks to help mitigate CO2 emissions from consumption of fossil fuels. The Dry Fork Station project and others selected by the agency aim to develop integrated carbon capture and storage complexes that are 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 also is 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.