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MSU moves forward with DOE-backed CO2 storage project in northern Montana

Montana State University finalized negotiations with the US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to begin work on an $85-million, eight-year project that will involve permitting, injecting and monitoring one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into deep porous rock formations in northern Montana. MSU received the preliminary award in 2009 and has been finalizing details on site selection, logistics, and project partners for the project to proceed.

Schematic illustration of carbon capture and storage at Kevin Dome in Montana. Courtesy Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership. Click to enlarge.

In addition to $67 million of federal funding, private partners are contributing another $18 million in required matching funds for the project. Led by MSU, the Kevin Dome storage project will be a team effort that draws upon expertise from both the public and private sector. The team includes four other universities, three national laboratories and five private sector companies and has experience with carbon storage projects in Washington, Wyoming, Canada, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and internationally.

Three companies, Vecta Oil and Gas, SR2020 Inc. and Schlumberger are providing the bulk of the matching funds for the project. Vecta and SR2020 are involved in the seismic survey which will be one of the first steps of the project to ensure the geology is suitable and help determine the best locations for the wells. Schlumberger will core and log wells to provide more detailed geologic data about the subsurface.

The overall goal of the project is to demonstrate that CO2 can be stored safely and viably in regional geologic formations. It will be carried out by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership at MSU. During the operational phase, the partnership will inject one million tons of CO2 into the dome 3,900 ft underground. Monitoring of the environment will be conducted throughout the life of the project until site closure.

The project site will be located at Kevin Dome, a geologic feature that extends 700 square miles underground and has trapped naturally occurring CO2 for millions of years. There are barrier rock layers above the CO2 that prevent gas or other liquids from migrating to the surface. The partnership will inject CO2 into a rock layer that has not previously had CO2. This will allow the scientists to study rocks that have been previously exposed to CO2 and rocks that have not had previous CO2 exposure.

Project information will be available at as well as through regular newsletters. The eight year project will begin with environmental studies for permitting and collecting background data prior to building necessary infrastructure.

This project is the third phase of the Big Sky Partnership. The first phase of the program identified and characterized the carbon sources and sinks in the region and the second phase has focused on determining the best approaches for storing CO2 in both geologic and terrestrial systems. Small scale terrestrial and geologic field tests are currently under way by the partnership.

Led by Montana State University, the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) is one of seven partnerships involved in the US Department of Energy’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership program.


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