Drilling underway at carbon capture test site

Major drilling activity began January 13 on Trapper Mine property, part of the process of assessing the carbon dioxide sequestration potential for northwest Colorado, the Colorado Plateau and the Southern Rocky Mountains.

The drilling is part of a three-year project to evaluate the ability of the region’s subsurface rock formations and geologic structure to provide a safe, long-term option to store CO2, a greenhouse gas produced as a byproduct during the energy production process at coal-based power plants.

The Rocky Mountain Carbon Capture and Sequestration initiative is a partnership comprised of Tri-State, the Colorado Geological Survey, the Utah Geological Survey, the Arizona Geological Survey, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology, Schlumberger Carbon Services and the University of Utah.

“This project will provide a fundamental geological baseline of the potential for major candidate rock formations in the region to safely store carbon dioxide,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Brian McPherson, director of the Carbon Science and Engineering Research Center at the University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute. “Such baseline is absolutely critical before commercial-scale sequestration can be deployed.”

In 2009, the group was first awarded $3.8 million from the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, with a $1 million match required from the partners. A year later, the coalition submitted a proposal to the DOE to increase the level of funding from $4.8 million to $11 million, which was accepted.

Drilling began Jan. 13 on Trapper Mine property; crews expect to go down nearly 10,000 feet by mid-March.

Last year a crew of geologists from the Colorado and Utah geological surveys took approximately 1,700 rock layer measurements in the area to gain a better understanding of what formations might be encountered below ground. Seismic data analysis followed and then the final selection of the well site was made – located in an inactive area at Trapper Mine (which provides coal used at Tri-State’s nearby Craig Station).

The round-the-clock drilling activity is scheduled to continue through approximately mid-March, which is when crews should reach their targeted underground distance of nearly 10,000 feet – or almost two miles. A detailed geologic model will be generated of the subsurface rock formation and the four state geological surveys will then use the information to assess the CO2 sequestration potential.

Late last month, Tri-State and the other project participants conducted tours of the drilling rig site and hosted an open house at Trapper Mine for area elected officials and other interested parties. Those in attendance received an overview of the project, a recap of work completed to-date and an update of current and future activities.

“The open house provided us a terrific opportunity for everyone to get together and see first-hand some of the work that is being accomplished,” said Tri-State public affairs coordinator Sarah Carlisle. “It also was great to see the tremendous amount of interest and support the project is receiving from many of our constituents from throughout Moffat County.”

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