The Southwest Partnership on Carbon Sequestration (SWP) is one of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSP) established in 2003 by the US DOE to study the feasibility of capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide (CO2). Each of the RCSPs has been charged with determining the best geologic and terrestrial storage approaches for its specific region and to demonstrate technologies to safely and permanently store CO2. While each Partnership targets its own regional carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) opportunities, the Partnerships together represent a national initiative. Each partnership has developed a regional carbon management plan to identify the most suitable storage strategies and technologies, aid in regulatory development, and propose appropriate infrastructure for CCUS commercialization within its region. In addition, the Partnerships have contributed significantly to NATCARB, the NETL's National Carbon Sequestration Database and Geographic Information System, a GIS-based tool developed to provide a view of carbon capture and storage potential. The Partnerships are part of the U.S. DOE's efforts in carbon management, balancing the needs of energy security and increased concerns over the impact of the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases—particularly CO2—in the Earth’s atmosphere. The program is managed by the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).
SWP uses engineering, geology, chemistry, biology, geographic information systems (GIS), and economics to develop approaches for carbon storage in the Southwest Region. SWP also engages in economic and regulatory analyses, public education and outreach, and regional demonstration projects to deploy and evaluate new technologies.
The Southwest Region of the United States is energy-rich, with some of the largest energy-production growth rates in the nation. Two major pipeline networks transport more than 32 million metric tons (35 million tons) per year of natural subsurface CO2 to petroleum fields throughout the southwest and mountain states, where it is used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Naturally occurring CO2 is found in reservoirs in many western states, including New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. In addition to natural sources, the 10 largest coal-fired power plants in the region produce about 125 million metric tons (138 million tons) per year. Other stationary sources include natural gas processing plants, refineries, and ammonia/fertilizer, ethylene and ethanol, and cement plants. A number of these sources are being used for EOR in Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming and account for about 20% of the injected CO2 in the SWP.
In its Characterization Phase (Phase I) SWP confirmed that the Southwest Region offers significant potential for storage in mature oil fields and coal seams, in addition to other sedimentary formations. In the Validation Phase (Phase II), pilot-scale geologic projects were designed to characterize and test areas of high CO2 storage potential in the region, via enhanced coal bed methane (ECBM) extraction and enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In addition, one terrestrial storage research and pilot study was performed to leverage the large amount of potential CO2 uptake sources within the region. The program was designed to determine best management practices for carbon storage in croplands and rangelands, and explore carbon market opportunities.
During its Development Phase (Phase III), SWP, with an industrial partner engaged in an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) project, will closely monitor the injection and post-injection period of a million tons of carbon dioxide. Going forward, Phase III will be guided by the Office of Fossil Energy’s focus on utilization in CCUS, with EOR being a key method of CO2 sequestration that will deliver economic incentives.