North Dakota CarbonSAFE

Interactive Process 1 2 3 4 5

The CarbonSAFE project assessed the potential for permanently storing CO2 in a sandstone layer 6000 feet below the surface.

North Dakota CarbonSAFE investigated permanent, commercial-scale geologic storage of carbon dioxide to manage CO2 emissions from coal-based energy facilities—the storage in carbon capture and storage (CCS). The project was part of an ongoing effort to ensure reliable, affordable energy and the wise use of North Dakota's resources. The feasibility study did not involve CO2 injection.

What Is North Dakota CarbonSAFE Doing?

The project began by drilling two deep exploratory holes—one in Oliver County and one in Mercer County—to better understand the geology that could be used for safe, permanent storage of CO2. The rock layers examined lie about 6000 feet below the surface. The exploratory holes allowed researchers to collect geologic core samples, water, and other rock layer data deep underground. After the data collection was completed, the holes were plugged with cement and the land restored in accordance with state and federal regulations. The samples were studied in our laboratories to determine their characteristics and ability to hold CO2 permanently. That information and the other data collected from the fieldwork have guided the development of computer-based geologic modeling and simulation scenarios. ND CarbonSAFE also investigated economic feasibility, state and federal regulations, and potential risks associated with permanent geologic storage.

Geologic Core Samples

Geologic core samples

Rock core from the Broom Creek Formation retrieved from a test hole in Mercer County, North Dakota, in December 2017 show that the ~6000-ft-deep formation contains reddish beach sand.

Restoration after Drilling

Restoration after drilling

In the multistep restoration process, all traces of the drilling pad were removed, the contours of the land reshaped, and the topsoil was put back in place.

Geologic Modeling and Simulation Scenarios

Geologic modeling simluation group

To create the computer-based geologic model, geoscientists incorporate data from laboratory results, the exploratory hole, and geophysical surveys into a 3-dimensional representation of the subsurface geology of a potential CO2 storage zone and surrounding area.

Geoscientists use the 3-D model in specialized simulation software to predict the effects of CO2 injection, including fluid flow and pressure in the storage zone and adjacent layers, to better understand the long-term fate of injected CO2.

Why North Dakota?

Low-Carbon Energy for North Dakota North Dakota is a great place for CCUS NDCS drilling site overview

Who Is North Dakota CarbonSAFE?

The North Dakota CarbonSAFE project was led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota. Partners included the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the North Dakota Industrial Commission's Lignite Research Program, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Minnkota Power Cooperative, ALLETE Clean Energy, BNI Energy, and the North American Coal Corporation.

This project was one of 19 projects funded under DOE's CarbonSAFE Initiative through DOE's Office of Fossil Energy. The CarbonSAFE Initiative supports projects that address key research in the path toward the commercialization of CCS technologies, including the development of safe, permanent, commercial-scale geologic storage sites for CO2.

What Are the Next Steps?

The feasibility study ran from June 2017 to February 2020. Results of the study have verified the technical feasibility of a commercial carbon capture and storage project in this area of North Dakota. As a next step, funding for a more detailed examination of the geology of potential storage layers is being sought.

For more information, contact us at or (701) 777-5000.