The U. S. Doe Carbon Storage Program: Status and Future Directions

Authors: 
Rodosta, T., National Energy Technology Laboratory

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking steps to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through clean energy innovation, including carbon capture and storage (CCS) research. The Office of Fossil Energy Carbon Storage Program, implemented by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, is focused on ensuring the safe and permanent storage and/or utilization of CO2 captured from stationary sources. The Program is developing and advancing geologic storage technologies both onshore and offshore that will significantly improve the effectiveness of CCS, reduce the cost of implementation, and be ready for widespread commercial deployment in the 2025-2035 timeframe. The technology development and field testing conducted through this Program will be used to benefit the existing and future fleet of fossil fuel power generating and industrial facilities by creating tools to increase our understanding of geologic reservoirs appropriate for CO2 storage and the behavior of CO2in the subsurface. 

Since 1997, DOE’s Carbon Storage Program has significantly advanced the CCS knowledge base through a diverse portfolio of applied research projects, which are carried out in the Program’s two primary technology components: Core Storage Research and Development (R&D); and Storage Infrastructure. 

The Core Storage R&D research component focuses on analytic studies, laboratory, and pilot- scale research to develop technologies, which can improve wellbore integrity, increase reservoir storage efficiency, improve management of reservoir pressure, ensure storage permanence, quantitatively assess risks, and identify and mitigate potential release of CO2 in all types of storage formations. Recent accomplishments include new and improved numerical simulation and risk assessment tools, new and improved tools and approaches for monitoring, and improved understanding of the geomechanical, hydrologic, and geochemical processes and potential impacts of CO2 injection in different storage environments. Current Core Storage R&D is focused on development of technologies for onshore storage in the near term and will include offshore applications over the long term.

Core Storage R&D efforts are implemented through cost-shared cooperative agreements and grants with industry and academic institutions, and through Strategic Program Support, which includes the National Laboratory Network, The National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP), and the Subsurface Technology and Engineering Research, Development, and Demonstration (SubTER) Tech Team which is comprised of several DOE organizations, including Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Nuclear Energy.  

The Storage Infrastructure technology component represents the development of the infrastructure necessary for the deployment of CCS and involves field validation of technology options, including large-volume injection field projects at pre-commercial scale to confirm system performance and economics. The Storage Infrastructure technology component tests new technologies and benefits from specific solutions developed in the Core Storage R&D component. In turn, data gaps and lessons learned from small- and large-scale field projects are provided to the Core Storage R&D technology component to guide future R&D.

The Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) is an important part of the Storage Infrastructure technology component. Initiated in 2003, the RCSPs have characterized the geologic storage resource for a large portion of the United States and western Canada, successfully completed 19 small-scale geologic field projects representing different types of storage in different geologic environments, and are currently conducting seven large-scale projects, involving injection of one million metric tons of CO2 at each site. The RCSP initiative has yielded many technical and non-technical accomplishments.  Experience and knowledge gained from the large-scale injection projects are providing a firm foundation for future commercial-scale projects.

Future research involves commercial-scale characterization for regionally significant storage locations capable of storing from 50 to 100 million metric tons of CO2 in a saline formation. These projects will lay the foundation for fully integrated carbon capture and storage demonstrations of future first of a kind (FOAK) coal power projects.

Future research will also bring added focus on offshore CCS. Research is needed to better characterize offshore storage potential; inform interna­tional and domestic regulatory development; and address technical gaps and the technology needs (e.g., monitoring, modeling, simulation) that are specific to the offshore environment.

A series of “fit-for-purpose” field projects are also planned to focus on advancing specific technologies beyond the laboratory testing stage to prototype field pilot testing, setting the stage for integration into large-scale system testing. Research topics for fit-for-purpose field projects include development and validation of engineering strategies/approaches for managing  formation pressure in future saline storage projects; field validation and optimization of stacked storage strategies; targeted post-injection analyses; and demonstration of the potential of unconventional residual oil zones for carbon storage associated with enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

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