Montana State University
Archived Spotlight story

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced funding to a multi-state partnership headed by Montana State University to further develop ways of capturing and storing greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, in underground geological formations, cropland and forestland. MSU economist Susan Capalbo is director of the Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which includes scientists from Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, tribal nations and international collaborators.

The regional coalition, called the Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, includes public and private sector research institutions, businesses and state agencies. It is part of a national network of such partnerships that is the backbone of the United States' sequestration research. MSU economist Susan Capalbo is director of the partnership, which includes scientists from Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, tribal nations and international collaborators in Norway, India and the Netherlands.

"This work capitalizes on MSU's investments in energy research and in the high speed Lariat telecommunications networks. We couldn't take the lead in this effort without this infrastructure," Capalbo said. The energy research has included study of the basic science of carbon dioxide interactions in mineral formations, fuel cell research and carbon measurement technologies.

Capalbo said this grant shows that MSU is becoming known as a leader in energy research.

"By facilitating the move of carbon sequestration technologies into the field, this grant will help America take a huge step toward significant greenhouse gas reduction while using our coal and other fossil fuel resources," Capalbo said. "These fuels are important for meeting both America's energy needs and economic development in the region."

Extensive storage of carbon dioxide in basalt rock formations is possible. Capalbo said the carbon dioxide storage capacity of the Columbia River Basalt alone would exceed the emissions of all U.S. coal-fueled power plants for the next 20 to 30 years. There will be other storage alternatives. The Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership also will work with industry and landowners to design market-based carbon storage using both cropland and forestland.

In addition to conventional fossil fuel-based power generation, the research will look at next-generation energy power plants that produce electricity and hydrogen without emissions of carbon dioxide, and combine wind and coal to provide reliable energy in the West.

The partnership plans extensive education and outreach to communicate the opportunities and costs associated with carbon sequestration. The first such educational meeting is planned at MSU this fall.

More information about this project and the partnership is available at www.bigskyco2.org.