Today, the Department of Energy announced the selection of five projects that will study the feasibility of using salty water – or brine – from carbon dioxide (CO2) storage sites to produce fresh water.

These projects – which will receive more than $7 million in funding from the Department – will develop and validate strategies to manage pressure and the flow of CO2 in saline formations through a Brine Extraction Storage Test (BEST). By managing the pressure and the flow of CO2 – also known as a plume steering– brine can be extracted from the formation at specific points, where fresh water can be separated in a process known as enhanced water recovery (EWR).  The remaining brine is injected at another point to help steer the plume.

“The projects announced today will further advance enhanced water recovery technologies, which can provide a valuable water resource from carbon capture, utilization and storage operations, while also reducing harmful carbon emissions,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “This is particularly important for regions that face water shortages, providing additional resiliency and protecting future generations from the harmful effects of climate change.”

These projects will also support the clean energy and climate goals announced by President Obama and President Xi in November 2014.  Last year’s announcement called for a new, commercial-scale CCUS project in China, and pilots in both countries to demonstrate CO2-EWR, which would show power generation as a net producer instead of net consumer of water.  China will continue to support the ongoing U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center EWR pilot project in Tianjin.

The five projects announced today will be managed by the Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory under the lab’s Carbon Storage Program:

  • The University of Illinois will lead a project to develop and validate pressure management and CO2 plume control strategies based on computational and field demonstration work at the Archer Daniels Midland Corporation facility in Decatur, IL. New and existing wells will be used to investigate field-ready development and monitoring strategies to manage pressure and control CO2 plumes.
  • Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. and its partners will compile data to help select a preferred project location for the field demonstration project during Phase II.  They will also conduct a life-cycle economic analysis for produced water extraction, treatment, and transportation; develop monitoring and water injection/production strategies for measuring and controlling the subsurface reservoir pressure and plume; and prepare a series of work plans that can be used to implement the field demonstration project.
  • The University of Wyoming has teamed with partners to develop and validate advanced technologies and engineering approaches for predicting, monitoring, and managing pressure plumes and to develop a test site for deploying treatment technologies for extracted brines. The team will also develop and validate advanced subsurface fluid flow simulation technologies using various injection and storage scenarios.  The goal is to predict pressure responses and the movement of CO2 injected fluid in the reservoir.
  • The University of Texas at Austin will lead a project to test active brine extraction wells, passive pressure relief wells, and combinations of both, to control the pressure buildup in the storage formation. Under each pressure management strategy, a complete life-cycle analysis for brine, along with brine handling strategies, will be developed. The proposed study will include some lab and pre-pilot scaling work to obtain the design parameters for Phase II.
  • The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center and its partners will create a technical design package for a brine extraction and storage test. The test will focus on validating approaches to active reservoir management and extracted water treatment. Concurrent with site selection activities, viable pilot-ready water treatment technologies will be screened for their potential to be deployed at the Phase II site. Surface facilities will be designed for the selected site and will be able to accommodate most pilot-ready water treatment technologies.

Following the feasibility and design phase, one of the recipients will be selected next year for a pilot project to validate brine/water injection and treatment technology.