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Understanding Wells & Permitting for CCS Project Development

Updated: Mar 21

Understanding Wells & Permitting for CCS Project Development

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a technology that can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the CO2 from entering the atmosphere. The development of a CCS project entails several stages, including site selection, well drilling, and obtaining necessary permits. 

Understanding Wells for CCS Project Development

Wells play a crucial role in the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project process. They serve as the conduit for injecting captured carbon dioxide (CO2) into deep geological formations for long-term storage. The main function of these wells is to ensure that the CO2 is securely stored and doesn't leak back into the atmosphere or contaminate underground sources of drinking water.

There are two primary types of wells involved in the CCS process:

  1. Injection Wells: These are the most critical type of well in the CCS process. They are specially designed and constructed to withstand the physical and chemical properties of injected CO2. Injection wells must be deep enough to ensure the CO2 remains under pressure and becomes a dense fluid. Moreover, they must be sealed properly to prevent any leakage of CO2 back to the surface or into underground sources of drinking water.

  2. Monitoring Wells: These wells are used to monitor the behavior of injected CO2 in the storage reservoir. They help in verifying that the CO2 is spreading as predicted within the reservoir and that there are no signs of leakage. Monitoring wells are an essential part of the risk management and mitigation strategies in CCS projects.

The design, construction, and operation of these wells need to adhere to stringent regulations and standards to ensure the safety and effectiveness of CCS projects.

The classification of wells in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects is primarily divided into two categories: Class II and Class VI wells, each serving a different purpose within the process.

Class II Wells: These wells are primarily used for the injection of fluids associated with oil and gas production. A common use of Class II wells is for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), including CO2-EOR. In this process, CO2 is injected into an oil field to increase the amount of crude oil that can be extracted. This allows for the simultaneous storage of CO2 and increased oil production.

Class VI Wells: These wells, also known as Class 6 wells, are specifically designed for the geologic sequestration of CO2. They are used to inject CO2 into deep rock formations for long-term underground storage, a process called geologic sequestration (GS)2. Class VI wells are an integral part of the CCS value chain and are critical for capture projects to realize their climate benefit.

It's important to note that the classification is based on the type and depth of the injection activity and the potential for the injection activity to impact underground sources of drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates these injections through the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

In addition to Class II and Class VI wells, there are also Class V wells, which can be any one of a large number of different types of injection wells, from something as simple as stormwater well storage to deep brine injection wells. Interestingly, Class VI wells originally were Class V Experimental Technology wells before being established as their own class. These wells are defined by the UIC regulations into three subcategories based on the fluids they inject. They are typically used for experimental purposes or for technology testing.

Wells are only one half of the CCS process. Before carbon can be stored, it must be captured. There are a variety of facilities involved in this process, including power plants and industrial sites. Advanced technologies are used to separate CO2 from other gases produced during electricity generation and industrial processes. Other facilities involve Direct Air Capture (DAC) where CO2 is removed from the atmosphere through chemical reactions. 

Permitting for CCS Projects

The permitting process for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects involves several steps and is crucial for the success and legality of these projects. In the U.S., The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers this process through its Underground Injection Control program, with Class VI permits being required for most CCS projects.

The process begins with a completeness review, which ensures the permit application is complete and contains all the necessary information. This initial step typically takes around 30 days.

Following this, each Class VI project goes through various phases, including pre-permitting, pre-construction, pre-operation, injection, and post-injection phases. Each phase represents a different stage in the lifecycle of a CCS project and requires different considerations and approvals.

The typical permit application processing time has historically been around six years, which can pose a significant barrier to the development of CCS projects. However, some states have shown it's possible to approve permits in less time. For example, North Dakota petitioned for and was granted primacy for Class VI well permits and the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit in less than five months.

Moreover, several states, including Texas, Arizona, and West Virginia, are currently in the process of gaining “primacy” or permitting authority from the EPA for Class VI wells, allowing them to manage the application process and expedite permit approval.  Other states, like Pennsylvania, are also making strides in this direction. Louisiana was recently granted primacy and now has control over the permitting process.

While the permitting process for CCS projects can be complex and time-consuming, it's a necessary step to ensure these projects are developed and operated safely and effectively. As CCS technology continues to evolve and mature, there may be opportunities for streamlining the permitting process to support more rapid deployment of this critical climate solution.

Strategies, Tools & Technologies for CCS Development

Streamlining the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project process involves a combination of strategies, tools, and technologies. Here are a few ways developers can optimize the CCS project process:

Modeling and Simulation Tools: These can be used to predict the behavior of injected CO2 under various geological and operational conditions. They help in optimizing injection rates and monitoring strategies.

Risk Assessment Tools: These tools evaluate the potential risks associated with CCS projects, including leakage risks and environmental impacts. They can help in designing effective risk mitigation strategies.

Project Management Tools: These tools can help in tracking project progress, managing resources, and coordinating between various project stakeholders.

Regulatory Compliance Tools: These tools can assist in navigating complex regulatory frameworks and ensuring compliance with all necessary permits and regulations.

In addition to these tools and strategies, companies like LandGate offer valuable data and technology services that can streamline the CCS project process. LandGate provides comprehensive property data and valuation models that can assist in site selection and evaluation for CCS projects. Their data includes detailed information on mineral rights, water rights, and surface rights, which can be crucial for assessing the feasibility and potential costs of a CCS project.

Furthermore, LandGate's proprietary technology can automate many aspects of the site evaluation process, saving time and reducing errors. Their platform can also assist with risk assessment and project planning, providing a robust toolset for developers working on CCS projects.

Overall, leveraging a combination of advanced tools, technologies, and data services can significantly streamline the CCS project process, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

To learn even more about CCS wells and permitting, schedule a demo with our dedicated energy team.


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