The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, one of seven members of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program, has begun collecting core samples from a new characterization well near Spectra Energy’s Fort Nelson natural gas processing plant in British Columbia, Canada.
Core sampling, along with a sophisticated well logging program that the partnership is conducting, is an important step in proving the viability of carbon storage in brine-saturated formations.
The Fort Nelson project is on track to become one of the first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage projects in a saline aquifer in North America. With plans to inject over two million tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO2), the project—an international collaboration that includes Spectra Energy, the Province of British Columbia, Natural Resources Canada, the PCOR Partnership, and DOE—will also be one of the largest carbon sequestration projects in the world. Geologic carbon sequestration is expected to play an important future role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.
The project is one of two large-volume tests that the PCOR partnership is undertaking in the development phase of the DOE partnerships program, which focuses on large-volume carbon storage; the second test is planned for the Williston Basin in North Dakota. The partnership is also conducting four smaller-scale sequestration tests at locations across the Great Plains. All of the projects share the program goal of developing the technology, infrastructure, and regulations to implement large-scale CO2 sequestration.
Core sampling and well logging help determine a site’s geologic suitability for safe and permanent storage of CO2. Coring of the Elk Point rock formations at Fort Nelson will provide researchers, geologists, and reservoir experts with characterization data of the carbonate formations that will be used to store the CO2 and the impermeable shale layers above that will act as a cap rock to contain the CO2. As part of these activities, numerous geomechanical and geochemical tests designed to evaluate the performance of the reservoir and containment rocks will be performed.
The information collected from the core samples, together with tests and well logging, will be critical in developing simulation models and the anticipated design and implementation of CO2 injection. The project is expected to involve the eventual transportation of CO2 from Spectra Energy’s Fort Nelson natural gas processing plant to the injection site.
To ensure the safe storage of CO2, the PCOR partnership will implement a comprehensive monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) plan for the project. Drilling, coring, and injection all provide opportunities to develop a set of cost-effective MVA protocols that can be applied in other locations to promote the safe, permanent storage of CO2.
The development phase is the third phase of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships initiative. The characterization phase (2003–2005) defined opportunities for carbon capture and storage. The validation phase (2005–2009) generally involves small-scale field tests. These earlier phases determined that the PCOR partnership region has the geological potential to sequester more than half of the region’s anticipated CO2 emissions over the next 100 years.
The PCOR Partnership is managed by the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center and includes more than 80 public and private partners in all or part of nine states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin) as well as four Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba). The National Energy Technology Laboratory manages the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program on behalf of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy.