Media Contact:
Mark Milligan
Utah Geological Survey
(801) 537-3326

Utah Geological Survey in Partnership to Research Underground Storage of Carbon Dioxide to Mitigate Global Warming

Salt Lake City (Oct. 15, 2020)—The Utah Geological Survey (UGS) has joined a new collaborative partnership to research Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS), a process being developed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a natural and essential component of the atmosphere, but also a greenhouse gas causing global warming and climate change. During the CCUS process, carbon dioxide emitted by an industrial source such as coal-fired power plants is captured and stored long-term in confined, deep saltwater-bearing rock formations. Alternatively, industry can use captured carbon dioxide to squeeze out oil trapped in reservoirs.

For two decades, the UGS has been investigating the state’s subsurface geology and industrial infrastructure to determine the safety and viability of injecting carbon dioxide into underground rock formations. As part of this new initiative to share data and advance research on CCUS, the UGS along with the University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute, joins 15 other state and federal entities to form the Carbon Utilization and Storage Partnership, or CUSP. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded CUSP $5 million for the project, with the UGS receiving about $140,000.

Nationwide and in many other countries, CCUS is moving forward. Multiple large-scale commercial projects are in the planning stages and the list is growing. The UGS has been a major contributor on numerous previous CCUS programs and will play an important role in CUSP, especially as it relates to Utah.

In the past, Utah and the UGS have played a key role in three large-scale CCUS projects funded by the Department of Energy. For these projects, the UGS (1) studied rock reservoirs on the Colorado Plateau that contain natural carbon dioxide and are analogs for storing captured carbon dioxide, (2) evaluated Utah’s largest and one of its oldest oil fields, the Greater Aneth in San Juan County, to demonstrate that its rock reservoir can safely store carbon dioxide after it is used for enhanced oil recovery, and (3) conducted the geological characterization of potential storage reservoirs, such as the Navajo Sandstone, to safely store carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant in central Utah. UGS geologists used rock outcrops, oil-field cores stored at the UGS’s Utah Core Research Center, and subsurface geology based on oil and gas well logs for their contribution to these projects. A key component of these studies was to identify the risk of carbon dioxide leakage from rock repositories. More information about the UGS’s past CCUS projects can be found at

Block diagram showing terrestrial and geological sequestration. Geologic sequestration can be in old oil and gas fields, unmineable coal beds, and saline aquifers such as the Navajo Sandstone. From Colorado Geological Survey, 2007, Resource Series 45.

For the new CUSP project, the UGS team will help (1) expand the characterization of various underground rock formations for potential carbon dioxide storage in Utah, (2) develop risk assessment, management, and mitigation strategies for commercial-scale storage sites, (3) facilitate geologic and carbon dioxide source (e.g., power plants) data collection and analysis, (4) identify rights-of-way for new carbon dioxide pipelines, and (5) develop regional readiness indices for CCUS. This work will potentially make Utah a leader in addressing global warming while benefiting the local economy.

CUSP is led by the Petroleum Recovery Research Center at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Additional partners are the University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute, Kansas Geological Survey, Arizona Geological Survey, Colorado School of Mines, Stanford University, Desert Research Institute of Nevada, Montana State University, Oklahoma Geological Survey, Washington Geological Survey, University of Oklahoma, Indiana University, and the Pacific Northwest, Sandia, and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

The Utah Geological Survey, a division of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, provides timely scientific information about Utah’s geologic environment, resources, and hazards.