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Carbon Storage Research: PCOR Partnership celebrates tenth successful partners' meeting

The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership’s tenth partners’ meeting was held September 12–13, 2012, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The meeting provided an overview of carbon management topics, including new developments in carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) strategies; updates on projects within the region and beyond; regulatory updates; and relevant associated products and services. The meeting also provided opportunities to show appreciation to the numerous stakeholders from the public and private sector who make up the PCOR Partnership. The time line below, featured at the meeting, displays some of the highlights of the PCOR Partnership’s three phases of activities and also spotlights partner involvement over 9 years.

“From the first kickoff meeting, we recognized the need to maximize the value to all of our partners and minimize any disruption to site operations beyond what is part of ‘normal’ or ‘standard’ procedures,” said John Harju, EERC Associate Director for Research. “This client-based, value-driven philosophy has encouraged partner loyalty, regulatory support, and commercial viability and has led to the ongoing success of the PCOR Partnership Program.”

The PCOR Partnership is led by the EERC and is one of seven regional partnerships competitively awarded by DOE NETL’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) Initiative as part of a national plan to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The PCOR Partnership region includes all or parts of nine states and four Canadian provinces within the central interior of North America.

The RCSP Initiative comprises a significant portion of NETL’s Carbon Storage Program and is a government–industry effort tasked with determining the most suitable technologies, regulations, and  infrastructure needs for CCUS on the North American continent.

In the Characterization Phase (2003–2005), the PCOR Partnership assessed and prioritized opportunities for CO2 storage in the PCOR Partnership region and helped to identify the technical, regulatory, and environmental barriers to the most promising storage opportunities.

The PCOR Partnership utilized the findings contained in its two dozen topical reports and half-dozen fact sheets, as well as the capabilities of its geographic information system-based Decision Support System (DSS © 2007–2012 EERC Foundation), to provide a concise picture of the storage potential for both geologic and terrestrial sequestration in its region based on assessments of sources, sinks, regulations, deployment issues, and capture and separation.

The Validation Phase (2005–2009) was an extension of the characterization phase and focused on carbon storage field validation projects designed to develop the local technical expertise and experience needed to facilitate future large-scale CO2 storage efforts in the region’s subsurface and terrestrial settings. These activities included four field validation tests (three geological and one terrestrial): 1) injection of acid gas (H2S-rich CO2) for the dual purpose of carbon storage and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the Zama oil field in Alberta, Canada; 2) injection of CO2 into a deep carbonate reservoir in the Williston Basin of North Dakota for the dual purpose of EOR and carbon storage; 3) injection of CO2 into an unminable lignite seam in North Dakota for the dual purpose of enhanced coalbed methane production and carbon storage; and 4) management of the Prairie Pothole Region wetlands and the subsequent evaluation of the net reduction in greenhouse gas fluxes of CO2, CH4, and N2O.

“Our work during the characterization phase, expanded by the results of our field validation tests and other activities, clearly showed that the PCOR Partnership region has tremendous carbon storage potential,” said Ed Steadman, EERC Deputy Associate Director for Research. He added that CO2 EOR represents the primary near-term opportunity for managing CO2 in the region and a key near-term regional CO2 source is natural gas-processing facilities.

Building upon these findings, in the fall of 2007, the PCOR Partnership began its 10-year, multimillion-dollar Development Phase focused on implementing commercial-scale geologic carbon storage demonstration projects in the region. An RCSP programmatic goal is the injection of at least 1 million metric tons of CO2 for each project along with understanding the necessary regulatory, economic, liability, ownership, and public outreach efforts needed for successful CCUS.

The PCOR Partnership selected two demonstration project sites: 1) the Bell Creek oil field in southeastern Montana and 2) the Fort Nelson site in northeastern British Columbia. The PCOR Partnership is working closely with Denbury Onshore LLC (Denbury) to determine the effect of large-scale injection of CO2 into a reservoir for the purpose of simultaneous CO2 EOR and CO2 storage at the Denbury-owned and -operated Bell Creek oil field. CO2 from the ConocoPhillips-owned Lost Cabin gas-processing plant in Wyoming will be transported to the Bell Creek oil field via the 232-mile-long Greencore Pipeline and then injected into an oil-bearing sandstone reservoir at a depth of approximately 4500 feet. The activities at Bell Creek will inject an estimated 1 million tons of CO2 annually beginning in early 2013, much of which will be permanently stored.

If determined feasible, the Fort Nelson project plans to inject up to 2 million tons of sour CO2 (mixture of CO2 and H2S) a year into a deep saline formation. The CO2 would be captured from Spectra Energy’s Fort Nelson gas-processing facility near Fort Nelson, British Columbia, and transported approximately 10 miles via pipeline to the target injection location, the Devonian-age Elk Point carbonate rock (limestone and dolomite) group at a depth of more than 7200 feet.

“During the next few years, the PCOR Partnership will work with the demonstration site owner-operators to characterize and model CO2 behavior in the subsurface as a basis for designing comprehensive monitoring plans,” said Charles Gorecki, PCOR Partnership Program Manager and EERC Senior Research Manager. “We will perform detailed site characterization, modeling, subsurface risk analysis, and monitoring, which will allow site operators to account for the CO2 injected and to verify that the CO2 remains in place once operations are complete.”

For more information or to obtain copies of the many outreach materials produced by the PCOR Partnership, please visit the PCOR Partnership Web site at

Key Partners Visit the EERC

Members of the Industrial Commission of North Dakota (NDIC) came to Grand Forks on September 24, 2012. NDIC members attended a University of North Dakota (UND) presentation, visited UND’s North Dakota Geological Survey Wilson M. Laird Core Library and the North Dakota State Mill, took a tour of the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), and met with the EERC directors to discuss current and upcoming research projects.

“We have been fortunate over the years to have NDIC as a partner in many of the EERC’s projects,” said EERC Director Gerry Groenewold. “We were delighted to show them the cutting-edge research facilities we have here.”

NDIC was created by the North Dakota Legislature in 1919 to conduct and manage certain utilities, industries, enterprises, and business projects as established by state law. Widely known for overseeing the Department of Mineral Resources’ Geological Survey and Oil and Gas Division, the Commission also oversees, consults with, or has direct responsibility for a number of agencies, such as the Bank of North Dakota; the Building Authority; the Housing Finance Agency; the Lignite Research, Development, and Marketing Program; the Mill and Elevator Association; the Oil and Gas Research Program; the Pipeline Authority; the Public Finance Authority; the Renewable Energy Program; the Student Loan Trust; and the Transmission Authority.

Members of the Commission include Governor Jack Dalrymple as chair, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem as general counsel, and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. Attending with the Commission was NDIC Executive Director Karlene Fine.