Carbon Storage Atlas

Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership



Scale-Up to Phase II

Scaling up to Phase II in the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) region to generate a more detailed understanding of storage potential and to perform pilot-scale studies involved multiple targets. For terrestrial storage studies, BSCSP investigators selected the Golden Triangle region of Montana for cropland studies, Wyoming sites for rangeland studies, and northern Idaho for the forestry study – all of which focused on land management impacts on carbon uptake. The geologic pilot chosen was a basalt injection test near Wallula, Washington, which became a first-in-the-world injection of single-phase carbon dioxide (CO2) into a mafic rock. Phase II required a different level of outreach to stakeholders, buy-in by host sites, site characterization, and permitting and compliance factors that were important preparation for later Phase III activities.


Regional Accomplishments

The Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) region possesses a wide range of geologic storage options, including depleted oil and gas fields, flood basalts, clastic saline formations, reactive carbonate saline formations, and unmineable coal seams, as well as potentially useful structural features such as domes and anticlines. In order to better understand storage potential in these varied geologies, BSCSP:

  • Developed the National Mafic Rock Atlas, a comprehensive geospatial database of mafic rocks in the United States.

  • Performed a detailed study of Madison limestone storage potential using existing logs, cores, and water data that involved geochemical and reactive transport modeling.

  • Conducted laboratory measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) sorption-induced changes in regional coal strain and permeability targeted at understanding CO2 enhanced coalbed methane (ECBM) potential.

  • Developed and/or tested methods to verify soil organic carbon levels.

  • Conducted laboratory studies of reactivity in carbonates and in basalts to inform reactive transport models.

  • Performed a preliminary assessment of storage potential in Kevin Dome in north-central Montana.


BSCSP also engaged in regional outreach activities to the general public, the private sector, and state legislative bodies – the latter contributing to three BSCSP region states being among the first nation-wide to adopt pore-space ownership laws.



Story of Interest

The Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership’s (BSCSP) cropland studies used a combination of modeling, laboratory analysis, proximal detection, and remote sensing to verify soil organic carbon (SOC) increases due to conversion to no-till (NT) farming. Through its partner, the National Carbon Offset Coalition (NCOC), BSCSP enrolled partner farms for the BSCSP study and to aggregate potential carbon credits. The combination of aggregation and verification enabled NCOC to trade carbon offsets on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and distribute $225,000 back to enrolled farmers. While NCOC and CCX no longer exist, this effort illustrates methods to incentivize beneficial land use changes and offset cost of conversion to new land use practices.


Research vs. Commercial

Phase II operations focused on pilot-scale tests of carbon storage. As such, the primary goal was data collection to understand the storage process and the behavior of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the system as opposed to future commercial operations with a primary goal of large-scale storage. For this reason, Phase II operations had a disproportionate amount of monitoring to collect the desired data to improve scientific understanding compared to future commercial activities. Specifically for the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) basalt pilot, a key issue that pilot-scale activities address is whether the rapid mineralization that is observed in laboratory experiments occurs on the same time scale in the subsurface. Data collected from the pilot was used to parameterize reactive transport models to predict CO2 behavior for potential future commercial activities.



Lessons Learned

The main lesson learned from both the geologic and terrestrial Phase II pilots was the importance of outreach to the local communities. An open and transparent discussion of project activities and goals, along with making key project proponents accessible to the local community, is critical to building trust with the public.




  • Battelle Pacific Northwest Division
  • Boise State University
  • Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
  • Center for Advanced Energy Studies at Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
  • Center for Energy & Economic Development
  • Clean Energy Systems
  • Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Det Kongelige Olge-Energy Department
  • Energy Northwest
  • EnTech Strategies, LLC
  • Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc
  • IBM
  • Idaho Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee
  • Idaho Department of Administration
  • Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
  • Idaho National Laboratory
  • Idaho Soil Conservation Commission
  • Idaho State University
  • Inland Northwest Research Alliance
  • Institute for Energy Technology (Norway)
  • Institute de Physique du Globe de Paris (France)
  • Intertribal Timber Council
  • Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology
  • Montana Department of Agriculture
  • Montana Department of Environmental Quality
  • Montana Farm Bureau Federation
  • Montana Geographic Information Council
  • Montana Governor’s Office
  • Montana State University
  • National Carbon Offset Coalition
  • National Geophysical Research Institute (India)
  • National Tribal Environmental Council
  • Nez Perce Tribe
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Oregon State University
  • Portland General Electric
  • Power Procurement Group
  • PPL Montana
  • Puget Sound Energy (PSE)
  • Ramgen Power Systems, Inc
  • Research Council of Norway
  • Ruckelshaus Institute for Environment and Natural Resources (University of Wyoming)
  • Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Sage Junction Consortium
  • Sampson Group
  • Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Center (Canada)
  • SINTEF Petroleum Research (Norway)
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • Unified Engineering
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Wyoming
  • University of Wyoming Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute
  • Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
  • Washington State Governor’s Office
  • Western Governors’ Association
  • Wyoming Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee (University of Wyoming)
  • Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
  • Wyoming State Governor’s Office
  • Yellowstone Ecological Research Center