The Earth Sciences Division (ESD) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is the technical lead for WESTCARB, a public-private collaboration established to assess opportunities for carbon capture, utilization, and geologic storage (CCUS) in the western United States and Canada. The effort is led by the California Energy Commission, which is responsible for the overall conduct of the project. The effort involves numerous private sector and public sector partners, who are responsible for carrying out various aspects of the work.
The WESTCARB website at www.westcarb.org is a resource for partnership activities, presentations and publications. WESTCARB Project leadership at the Berkeley Lab, Earth Sciences Division includes:
- Curt Oldenburg (Geologic Carbon Sequestration Program Lead)
- Elizabeth Burton (WESTCARB Technical Director)
- John Beyer (WESTCARB Program Manager)
Goals of the current WESTCARB effort
The overarching goal of WESTCARB is to facilitate successful, commercial-scale CCUS development within the WESTCARB region (California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, and the province of British Columbia) by expanding and enhancing regional characterization through research and development to identify and address CCUS implementation issues. To achieve this goal, WESTCARB and its partners work with various entities and the public to focus on a range of objectives:
- State agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations to characterize potential subsurface carbon dioxide (CO2) storage reservoirs, based on geology and geographic criteria
- Industry partners to conduct research during the process of identifying and defining promising sites in order to facilitate commercial-scale CCUS projects
- Policy makers and regulatory agencies to identify potential solutions to regulatory and economic impediments to CCUS project development, and to incorporate CCS as an accepted technology for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction
- DOE, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and other Regional Partnerships to support research-based publications on technical issues associated with CCUS, such as the Best Practice Manuals and the Carbon Storage Atlas
- The public to explain the importance of CCS as a bridging technology necessary for a sustainable energy future; and the breadth of existing knowledge, monitoring capabilities, and regulatory oversight to support public safety.
Examples of these efforts can be seen in the following two figures and technical articles, prepared with support from the California Energy Commission and presented at an international conference on CCS (click on images for PDF view):
- Click this link for the technical article California’s Policy Approach to Develop Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration as a Mitigation Technology.
- Click this link for the technical article Carbon Utilization to Meet California’s Climate Change Goals.
An example of outreach to the general public is the following handout about climate change and carbon storage, distributed and discussed at an LBNL booth at the Solano Stroll, an annual family-friendly street fair in Berkeley, California, attended by 250,000 people (click on image for PDF view):
Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Staff are Engaged in Many Technical Aspects of WESTCARB Activities
In addition to the broad range of collaborative efforts and public outreach mentioned above, many LBNL earth scientists in ESD conduct research in the following areas, associated with WESTCARB projects:
- Site characterization at regional scale based on existing geologic and well log data
- Site characterization at local scale based on core and brine samples, well logs, and other data from new wells, used to assess reservoir injectivity and capacity, caprock effectiveness, and simulation of the fate and transport of injected CO2
- Risk assessment and mitigation planning in support of site selection, public safety, environmental protection, storage effectiveness, and regulatory permitting
- Performance monitoring based on geophysical and geochemical techniques in support of public safety, environmental protection, regulatory oversight, and demonstration of storage effectiveness.
Citizen Green Well Project
In December 2011, WESTCARB drilled a 6,920-foot (2,109-m) stratigraphic well – called the Citizen Green Well – to assess the CO2storage potential of regionally extensive saline and gas-bearing formations in the southwestern Sacramento Basin, the northern part of the Central Valley of California. The Central Valley is the most promising on-shore CO2 storage resource in WESTCARB territory, with an estimated capacity of 75-300 Gt. The well penetrated three deep potential sandstone reservoirs with overlying shale caprocks. Core samples and logging data are being analyzed at LBNL to assess CO2 storage capacity of the sandstone formations and integrity of the overlying shale units. Simulations of CO2 injection, multi-phase flow, and trapping mechanisms are being performed. The formations are laterally extensive, so the data will have regional application.
LBNL is employing state-of-the art petrophysical, geochemical and geophysical laboratory experiments and simulation algorithms to evaluate the ability of these techniques to provide sufficiently detailed geologic characterization results that the number of pilot-scale CO2 injections for commercial-scale storage projects can be significantly reduced. The national and regional importance of this approach has increased recently because of stricter, more costly, and slower permitting processes for Class VI UIC wells.
A summary of work on the Citizen Green Well Project as of January 2013 is depicted below (click on image for PDF view):
Controlled-Source Electromagnetic (CSEM) Model Study of Large-Scale CO2Injection Monitoring
It is generally accepted that commercial-scale CO2 storage sites will require repeat 3-D seismic surveys to monitor the migration and lateral extent of injected CO2. 3-D seismic surveys are very expensive, so LBNL undertook this model study to see if an EM borehole-to-surface method might be effective for CO2 plume monitoring. The EM method is expected to be less expensive and could reduce the number of seismic surveys needed for long term monitoring. Each site will require a model study to assess applicability that particular electrical resistivity geologic structure, but the model study yielded sufficiently encouraging results that LBNL is seeking an opportunity for a field test. The concept is depicted in the following figure (click on image for PDF view):
Arizona Utilities CO2 Storage Pilot
In the WESTCARB region, Arizona is the state with the largest CO2 emissions after California. There are four large coal-fired power plants that emit 40 million metric tons a year. The most likely geologic region for finding CO2 storage reservoirs is in the Colorado Plateau in the northeastern part of the state. But most of that area is Navajo and Hopi Indian land, where it was anticipated that negotiations would be difficult for a drilling a deep well and conducting a pilot-scale CO2 injection. WESTCARB was fortunate to find a drill site at the southern margin of the Plateau on land owned by Arizona Public Service Company, with collaborative support from APS and other utilities.
In 2010, WESTCARB drilled an exploratory well near the APS Cholla Power Plant, but the hoped-for sandstone reservoir formation above granite basement was not encountered at that location. The formations at depth were limestones with near zero permeability, so no CO2 injection was attempted and the cost of casing the well was avoided. While disappointing, the project demonstrated the drilling risk associated with locating saline reservoirs in areas where oil and gas have not been found, areas where deep wells do not already exist to provide structural and lithologic information. It also demonstrated the importance of drill stem tests to assess reservoir permeability before the well is cased. There were also important lessons learned about permitting with EPA and a local environmental agency, and about public outreach concerning project activities and attitudes about climate change. The following figure depicts various aspects of the project (click on image for PDF view):