Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership
  • Additional information related to ongoing BSCSP efforts can be found on their website.

The Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) is led by Montana State University-Bozeman and represents a coalition of more than 60 organizations, including universities, national laboratories, private companies, state agencies, Native American tribes, and international collaborators. The partners are engaged in several aspects of BSCSP projects and contribute to the efforts to deploy carbon storage projects in the BSCSP region: Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, and eastern Washington and Oregon.

Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership Region
Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership Region

The overarching goal of BSCSP is to promote the development of a regional framework and infrastructure required to verify and deploy storage technologies by developing safe, effective, and economical approaches for capturing and permanently storing CO2 to reduce the region's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. BSCSP relies heavily on existing technologies from the engineering, geology, chemistry, biology, geographic information system (GIS), and economics fields to develop novel approaches for both geologic and terrestrial carbon storage in the region. The BSCSP also engages in economic and regulatory analyses, public education and outreach, and regional demonstration projects to deploy and evaluate new technologies. Specific objectives of BSCSP are to:

  • Conduct field investigations of prominent geological formations throughout the region: mafic rock formations, such as basalts, and sedimentary rock-hosted saline formations.
  • Conduct terrestrial field tests to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of terrestrial storage, implementing monitoring and verification protocols, and assessing the impacts to existing ecosystems.
  • Develop a national mafic rock atlas and assess the storage potential of these rocks through modeling studies, laboratory testing, and insights developed from the basalt pilot project.
  • Evaluate the technical and economic potential for and implications of carbon storage in the region.
  • Establish the Big Sky Energy Future Coalition to bring industry, academia, environmental, and non-governmental organizations and regulatory and government officials together to discuss the role that carbon storage can play in providing a technological solution to the region's energy requirements.

BSCSP estimates that the region annually produces more than 110 million metric tons of CO2 from stationary sources. Electricity generation accounts for over 80 percent of the region's CO2 emissions. The region produces electricity from a variety of sources, including hydroelectric, coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, biomass, petroleum, other gases, and geothermal. As part of ongoing activities, BSCSP continues to update annual emissions estimates and stationary sources as new information becomes available.

The regional characterization of potential storage sites conducted during the initial (Characterization Phase) efforts confirmed that the region holds a wealth of potential carbon storage sites. In addition, the BSCSP land area includes vast agricultural, range, and forest acreage that can be managed for greater storage of soil carbon and carbon in the biomass, and the region is also rich in energy resources, including coal, oil and gas, and renewable sources of energy. For geologic storage, the western part of the region has been studied as part of the validation phase due to the presence of extensive basalt formations that have the potential to store many hundreds of years' worth of regional CO2 emissions. The long-term storage potential for these basalts is estimated to be 33-134 billion metric tons. BSCSP is the only partnership performing field studies of basalt storage by injecting 1,000 metric tons into a deep basalt formation in eastern Washington. Basalts are highly reactive and have the unique capability to chemically trap CO2 in a short period of time. In addition, basalts are globally distributed and could significantly expand CO2 storage options in regions where other forms of geologic storage are limited or non-existent.

Location of the Validation Phase basalt injection site
Location of the Validation Phase basalt injection site.

Large saline formations east of the Rocky Mountains are capable of storing upwards of 200 billion metric tons of CO2, sufficient for storing the region's cumulative anthropogenic CO2 for centuries. These saline formations are the focus of development phase efforts that will inject more than 1 million metric tons of CO2 over four years into the Duperow saline formation within the Kevin Dome in Montana. The planning and design for this effort is ongoing.

Cross-section depicting the planned large-scale injection into the Kevin Dome
Cross-section depicting the planned large-scale injection into the Kevin Dome.

Additionally, within the BSCSP region, mature oil and gas reservoirs have contained crude oil and natural gas for millions of years. These reservoirs are primarily located in the sedimentary basins of Wyoming and Montana. Based on cumulative oil production to date from these reservoirs, the region could store more than 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2. Major oil- and gas-producing regions within BSCSP include:

  • Williston Basin, covering the northeastern region of Montana, as well as parts of South and North Dakota.
  • Powder River Basin (PRB) spanning southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming.
  • Bighorn Basin in north-central Wyoming and south-central Montana.
  • Wind River Basin in central Wyoming.

The BSCSP region also contains significant coal and coalbed methane (CBM) resources. Three of the largest reserves include the Powder River, Green River, and Hanna Basins. While these resources are important for power generation, CO2 could also be stored within coal seams that are too deep or too thin to be economically mined.

In addition to the geologic storage efforts, BSCSP efforts have included several terrestrial storage research and pilot studies to leverage the wide range of natural landscapes within the region. The program is designed to:

  • Determine best management practices for carbon storage in croplands and rangelands.
  • Identify and test monitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) technologies that reduce the costs of verification.
  • Explore carbon market opportunities.

BSCSP has conducted four terrestrial storage tests throughout the validation phase. Results from these efforts include:

  • Creating a Terrestrial Handbook for landowners and enrollment of tribal, croplands, and rangelands in carbon markets.
  • Testing different technologies that may reduce the costs and time required to verify carbon in soils.
  • Using remote sensing to detect land management practices.
  • Using remote sensing to determine carbon storage in forests.

Return to RCSP