Increasing global concern about climate change and its impact on the environment and society has led to a variety of strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere and find places to store it.
Many companies are hard at work to perfect methods of carbon capture, use, and storage. Franek Hasiuk, associate scientist at Kansas Geological Survey, said CCUS is the best technology available to reduce emissions produced by the global economy.
“CO₂ storage is a fundamental part of the current energy transition,” he said. “Every petroleum company is looking at building it into their business plans because policymakers, regulators and the general public are becoming increasingly interested in the ways to reduce CO₂ emissions to the atmosphere.”
Hasiuk is part of a team of scientists working on the Integrated Midcontinent Stacked Carbon Storage Hub, a project to investigate subsurface geology in southwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska and demonstrate the viability of injecting CO₂ into underground rock layers.
KGS is one of several public and private partners involved in the effort, which forms part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise, or “CarbonSAFE” program.
CarbonSAFE aims to identify and develop geologic storage sites, each capable of storing at least 50 million metric tons of CO₂ captured from industrial sources. Program contributors are working to prepare more than 50 sites for injection by 2026.
CarbonSAFE projects have two phases: pre-feasibility and feasibility. The IMSCS-HUB project has passed the feasibility phase and now is in phase 2.
“Our main goals during this phase are to provide all necessary background work such as geological and engineering characterization of the storage site, capture-facility design, infrastructure design and injection permitting,” said Eugene Holubnyak, petroleum engineer and the project’s co-lead investigator at KGS.
In addition to his work with the CarbonSAFE project, Holubuyak leads the Kansas CCUS Task Force, and represents KGS at the Regional Carbon Capture Deployment Initiative.
In the past 10 years, the KGS Energy Research Section has led or played a key role in five large-scale CCUS projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and has been tasked with developing a plan to address challenges and opportunities for commercial-scale CCUS in Kansas.
The IMSCS-HUB Project
IMSCS-HUB tasks include drilling wells – two in Kearny County, Kan., and one in Red Willow County, Neb. – conducting a seismic survey and analyzing acquired data. Cores, drilling records and 3-D seismic data obtained in the process will be made available to the public once the project is complete.
Holubnyak noted that the results will be useful not only for CCUS projects but also for conventional oil and gas exploration, geologic research and other activities.
“Extensive 3-D seismic datasets, such as the one acquired at the Kearny County site, are expensive and not often available to the public,” he said. “This dataset will provide insight on the architecture of structures in the subsurface throughout the region, where there are many similar structures. We hope that by analyzing this data we will better understand the Ordovician-age Arbuckle and Precambrian basement interface and other geologic formations in Kansas.”
Western Kansas is home to the Viola, Osage and Arbuckle rock units, porous rock formations containing highly saline water separated from shallower, freshwater aquifers by thousands of feet of impermeable rock. The Arbuckle sits just above the Precambrian basement, composed of igneous and metamorphic rock.
Holubnyak noted that the Viola, Osage and Arbuckle are the key targets for CO₂ storage, and data gathered during the IMSCS-HUB investigation will help determine whether it can store CO₂ safely in the long term.
“Data on the Precambrian/Arbuckle interface is sparse, but it is essential for both fundamental science and applications such as CCUS,” he said.
To better understand the data, KGS contracted geoscientists from Houston-based Premier Oilfield Group to assist in analyzing cores obtained from the Patterson 5-25 well drilled in Kearny County in early 2020.
Since 2016, Premier Oilfield Group has been a global leader in the aggregation, generation and application of rock and fluid data for unconventional and conventional plays throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Tim Prather, senior geologist and project manager at Premier, oversaw the core analysis program and coordinated processing, analysis and reporting of data to KGS scientists and engineers.
Prather, whose interest in CCUS started during his master’s studies at the University of Texas, said he appreciated the opportunity to work on a project that enabled him to use his geology skills to benefit the environment.
“I only attended a few talks facilitated by the Gulf Coast Carbon Center housed at the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, but they had a profound impact on informing me about the relationship between carbon emissions and climate change,” he said.
“The combination of these academic presentations and the time I’ve spent working in subsurface reservoir characterization has inspired me to consider climate change as a problem that can be solved by the same technologies and experts in the oil and gas industry which partially contribute to the CO₂ emissions we are working to offset,” he added.
Bryan Guzman, AAPG Member, Houston Geological Society vice president and senior account manager at Premier, also worked on the core analysis project. He agreed that CO₂ storage is a great fit for geoscientists who are both skilled in unconventional techniques and interested in reducing emissions.
“I believe that CO₂ storage is imperative as we explore ways to reduce our carbon footprint globally,” he said. “It is one of many techniques that will bring us one step closer to combating rising CO₂ levels and is an excellent technique that can leverage the vast experience of scientists working subsurface in the unconventional space.”
Guzman said Premier team members are working to summarize the core analysis data program to better understand the variability in reservoir characterization across the cored interval for the Patterson No. 5-25 well.
“Existing core analysis techniques are invaluable to understanding the best way to approach CO₂ injections when combined with other subsurface data,” he said. “Looking at the rock can never be underestimated from a value perspective.”
Next steps include wrapping up the reservoir characterization component for the Patterson No. 5-25 well and focusing on understanding the aging effects by testing rock/fluid interactions with the formations of interest over time.
Guzman will deliver a presentation about the Patterson No. 5-25 core analysis at the Wednesday topical breakfast held during the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in Houston on July 28.
In his presentation, “Investigation of Multiple Formations in the Midcontinent for CO₂ Storage Potential Through the Acquisition and Analysis of over 700ft. of Whole Core,” Guzman will share results from the 2020 project and share how new and traditional core analysis methods for CO₂ storage compare with protocols used in oil and gas exploration.
“I believe the topic is very relevant at this time and that scientists working unconventionals can contribute a lot with all the technologies that were developed for unconventionals,” said Guzman.
For Hasiuk, including CO₂ storage talks at society conferences makes sense not only for scientists, but also for the companies who are interested in entering the CCUS space.
“CO₂ storage is a frontier industry. There is still plenty of opportunities for growth. There are no majors or supermajors in terms of CO₂ storage yet.” he said.
Incentives for CCUS
Corporate interest in CCUS increased in 2018 when the U.S. Internal Revenue Service implemented 45Q tax credits for companies that capture and store CO₂ that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.
In addition to the federal credits, companies can take advantage of state-specific tax credits like the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard. With some of the programs, CO₂ used for enhanced oil recovery also counts as CO₂ storage.
Hasiuk noted that incorporating CCUS into the portfolio allows companies to make both a profit and an impact.
“If you want to make a difference in the world, there is no better way than contributing to the reduction of CO₂ in the atmosphere. CO₂ storage is the best technology for doing this,” he said.
Industry’s Role in the Energy Transition
Prather said he sees the oil and gas industry uniquely positioned to help solve the looming global climate-energy crisis.
“No other entity understands the subsurface reservoirs of the world better than the geologists, engineers, and other scientists working for the petroleum industry,” he said. “If the collective knowledge and the technologies supporting U.S. petroleum operations could be partially directed towards CCUS efforts, the net benefits would greatly outweigh the growing pains of an expanding new industry,” he said.
Prather said that when oil and gas companies embrace CCUS they create new geoscience jobs, ensure the continued use of fossil fuels while reducing net emissions, and expand access to energy worldwide.
“Energy poverty will be a catastrophic force in the coming decades if average citizens around the globe lack consistent access to reliable energy sources to provide electricity and fuels to meet their growing demands,” he said. “CCUS efforts should play a central role in enabling a more stable energy transition and in providing socially/economically accessible energy to the developing world in particular.”
Advice to Future CCUS Professionals
Prather encouraged students and young professionals to consider CCUS when they choose a career path.
“Addressing the impact of CO₂ emissions on global climate change will require a workforce of scientists and engineers who are creative and intelligent,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty working with the actual rocks we are trying to understand and characterize to achieve the goal of net neutral carbon emissions.”
To see the URTeC program and register for the conference visit URTeC.org.
For information about the IMSCS-HUB project see www.kgs.ku.edu/PRS/IMSCSH