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Integrated Design, Modeling, and Monitoring of Geologic Sequestration of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide to Safeguard Sources of Drinking Water

EPA Grant Number: R834386
Title: Integrated Design, Modeling, and Monitoring of Geologic Sequestration of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide to Safeguard Sources of Drinking Water
Investigators: McPherson, Brian J. , Deo, Milind D. , Goel, Ramesh , Solomon, Douglas Kip
Current Investigators: McPherson, Brian J. , Deo, Milind D. , Goel, Ramesh , Mandalaparty, Prashanth , Solomon, Douglas Kip
Institution: University of Utah
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: December 1, 2009 through November 30, 2012 (Extended to November 30, 2013)
Project Amount: $899,567
RFA: Integrated Design, Modeling, and Monitoring of Geologic Sequestration of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide to Safeguard Sources of Drinking Water (2009)
Research Category: Drinking Water


The University of Utah project team will utilize existing CO2 geologic sequestration (GS) demonstration sites to develop an "Aquifer Risk Assessment Framework," or ARAF. The ARAF will be a systematic framework that researchers may use to assess and quantify potential risks to Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDWs) at a specific GS site. The most useful application of the ARAF will be determination of optimized engineering conditions that minimize risks to USDWs for a given set of geologic conditions at a specific GS site.


We hypothesize that (1) geologic sequestration will impact USDWs, but (2) at suitable sites, GS will not adversely impact USDWs. The specific objectives of our study are (1) identify risks specific to USDWs and develop associated Probability Density Functions ( PDFs), (2) quantify risks to USDWs by pressure/brine/CO2 migration through seals, (3) quantify risks to USDWs by lateral migration of pressure/brine/CO2, and (4) determine conditions that minimize (or eliminate) the risks to USDWs.


A key to making the ARAF truly effective is to identify which factors (processes, parameters, etc.) are most important with respect to adverse impacts on USDWs, and to achieve this we will use a case-study approach to test and evaluate the specific components with real data and results. The case study sites include (1) the Gordon Creek field in north-central Utah; this site has never been subjected to CO2 injection, and will not begin injection for at least 1 year from now, (2) an active CO2 injection field site in the Permian Basin in western Texas; CO2 injection at this site began in October, 2008, and injection is not slated to cease until 2010 at the earliest; and (3) an active CO2 injection field site in the San Juan Basin in northern New Mexico; CO2 injection at this site began in July, 2008, and injection ceased in August, 2009. The latter two of these field sites are part of the Validation Phase of the Southwest Regional Partnership on Carbon Sequestration, a partnership and project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and its National Energy Technology Laboratory. A PI of this EPA STAR project (R834386) also formed the Southwest Regional Partnership and has led that project since 2003. Thus, access to the field sites and associated data are assured.

We plan to include all three of these field sites in the EPA-sponsored Aquifer Risk Assessment Framework (ARAF) STAR project (R834386). These three sites represent the three primary permutations of a CCS geologic site, to facilitate evaluation of different stages of risk analysis and framework development. Specifically, Gordon Creek is a new project area slated for future CO2 injection, and thus it represents a site with no baseline CCS analysis data at the onset of the project. The Permian Basin site represents active CO2 injection and monitoring with a relatively mature set of fundamental geologic evaluation, monitoring and simulation data to support ARAF development. Finally, San Juan represents a site that has run the full course of CO2 injection from drilling to well closure (albeit a medium-scale demonstration). For the ARAF, we will evaluate the properties and attributes that make each of these a capable storage site. We will then quantify selected risks for all three sites, and attempt to quantify all significant risks for one site. We anticipate this approach to provide essential ARAF elements. We will use simulations to evaluate a range of possible injection scenarios, and use results to evaluate what engineering conditions will minimize risks. Furthermore, we propose a field program in which fundamental geologic, hydrologic, and key environmental tracer data will be used to demonstrate methodology as well as test the concepts derived from our numerical modeling. Finally, we will compare ARAF development at all three sites, especially pre-injection results to post-injection results, to evaluate what aspects of the ARAF are most and least effective.

Expected Results:

The intent of the ARAF is a formalized, practical methodology for characterizing risks to USDWs and mechanisms (in the form of optimizing engineering injection conditions) for minimizing those risks.

Supplemental Keywords:

isotopes, water quality, risk management, Bayesian risk assessment,

Progress and Final Reports:
2011 Progress Report
2012 Progress Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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