The Big Sky "drill baby drill" project – just another dry hole into which taxpayer money is sequestered

From Montana State University, news of a big drilling project, except this one produces nothing.

Schematic illustration of carbon capture and storage at Kevin Dome in Montana. Courtesy Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership.

MSU moves forward with U.S. Department of Energy backed carbon dioxide storage project in northern Montana

Montana State University finalized negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy – National Energy Technology Laboratory on Tuesday to begin work on a $67 million, eight-year project that will involve permitting, injecting and monitoring one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into deep porous rock formations in northern Montana. MSU received the preliminary award in 2009 and has been finalizing details on site selection, logistics, and project partners for the project to proceed.

The overall goal of the project is to demonstrate that CO2 can be stored safely and viably in regional geologic formations. It will be carried out by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership at MSU.

Carbon storage, also known as carbon sequestration, is the capture and storage of CO2 gas that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon storage is seen as one possible strategy to help stabilize global CO2 emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change.

“This grant award demonstrates, once again, MSU’s national competitiveness in the search for energy solutions and our excellence in research and teaching,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado.

Under the umbrella of the MSU Energy Research Institute, the university conducts about $15 million in energy research annually. That research is part of the university’s $109 million research enterprise, for which it is recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as one of the top 108 research universities in the country.

The Montana congressional delegation of Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg recognize the importance of carbon storage to the nation’s energy systems and have strongly supported federal programs and MSU research in this area.

The success of MSU’s energy research also owes credit to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Cruzado said. “The governor’s office and the Montana congressional delegation have been very supportive of energy research at MSU and across the state.”

The project site will be located at Kevin Dome (pronounced kee-vin), a geologic feature that extends 700 square miles underground and has trapped naturally occurring carbon dioxide (CO2) for millions of years. There are barrier rock layers above the CO2 that prevent gas or other liquids from migrating to the surface.

The CO2 does not take up all of the space and therefore the dome has potential to store additional CO2. The partnership will inject CO2 into a rock layer that has not previously had CO2. This will allow the scientists to study rocks that have been previously exposed to CO2 and rocks that have not had previous CO2 exposure.

“Since we are getting the CO2 from a naturally occurring source, we can learn from nature how the CO2 has been stored safely in rock formations for millions of years,” said Lee Spangler, partnership director. “This grant will enable us to learn about the transportation, injection and monitoring of CO2 in an engineered system.”

The site is located in northern Toole County near the communities of Shelby, Kevin and Sunburst, Mont. Sunburst Mayor Gary Iverson commented “We see this project as having a very positive impact in our region. It brings international recognition and positive economic benefits for the eight years of the project as well as possible future opportunities.”

Local Montana companies will be hired for the project permitting, site development, well drilling and operations work. Altamont Oil and Gas of Cutbank will be responsible for site development and operations and Bison Engineering of Billings and Helena will work with state agencies on project permitting. Project funds will also be spent on local services and fuel.

Partnership scientists and engineers will share new technology and research in sustainable energy with students and teachers. Throughout the project, the partnership plans to create learning opportunities and experiences for local Toole County students and MSU students.

At Montana State, almost three dozen faculty, staff and students will be part of the project. Staff and students at MSU will be involved with project and data management, permitting, public outreach and education, geologic studies, and monitoring.

“Having continuous open communication with stakeholders is very important for the partnership,” said Lindsey Tollefson, project manager for the partnership.

Public meetings will be held throughout all stages of the project’s life cycle, staff will be available to meet with individuals, and local input will be considered in decision making, she said.

Additionally, project information will be available at as well as through regular newsletters.

The eight year project will begin with environmental studies for permitting and collecting background data prior to building necessary infrastructure.

During the operational phase, the partnership will inject one million tons of CO2 into the dome almost a mile underneath the earth’s surface. Monitoring of the environment will be conducted throughout the life of the project until site closure.

Project operations will be designed in consultation with local farmers, ranchers and community members to ensure that work takes place during appropriate seasons and with local activities in mind. The public will be notified in advance of any project related activities taking place on the ground.

In addition to the $67 million of federal funding, private partners are contributing another $18 million in required matching funds for the project. Led by MSU, the Kevin Dome storage project will be a team effort that draws upon expertise from both the public and private sector. The team includes four other universities, three national laboratories and five private sector companies and has experience with carbon storage projects in Washington, Wyoming, Canada, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and internationally.

Three companies, Vecta Oil and Gas, SR2020 Inc. and Schlumberger are providing the bulk of the matching funds for the project. Vecta and SR2020 are involved in the seismic survey which will be one of the first steps of the project to ensure the geology is suitable and help determine the best locations for the wells. Schlumberger will core and log wells to provide more detailed geologic data about the subsurface.

Safety is a priority for the team. The project will exceed standard commercial practices to minimize all health, safety and environmental risks. The CO2, geology, water, soil, air, and infrastructure will be extensively monitored by systems placed both above and below ground at the site.

All project activities will adhere to state and federal regulatory guidelines and obtain any required permits. This project will also have U.S. DOE oversight.

This project is the third phase of the Big Sky Partnership. The first phase of the program identified and characterized the carbon sources and sinks in the region and the second phase has focused on determining the best approaches for storing CO2 in both geologic and terrestrial systems. Small scale terrestrial and geologic field tests are currently under way by the partnership.

Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP)

Led by Montana State University, the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) is one of seven partnerships involved in the US Department of Energy’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership program. The BSCSP relies on existing technologies from the fields of engineering, geology, chemistry, biology, geographic information systems and economics to develop novel approaches for both geologic and terrestrial carbon storage in our region. The BSCSP region encompasses Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, eastern Washington and Oregon. Its membership includes universities, national laboratories, private companies, state agencies and Native American tribes. More information can be found at


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Why don’t they just take that CO2 and sell it to Pepsi?


$85 million…..
….because the concentration of CO2 went up 0.01%


Dear Citizens of Montana,
Have you lost your collective minds? Are you just rolling in so much cash that you can’t find enough ways to spend it? Do you have any idea of the scale of global CO2 emissions on a daily basis? Do you realize that the amount of CO2 that you will inject into that well on a daily basis will have absolutely no measurable impact whatsoever on daily global CO2 emissions?
You are about to spend $67 million for something that will have absolutely no impact whatsoever. You would actually save everyone a lot of time and money by taking $67 million in one dollar bills and burying them in a landfill or use them for fill in strip mining reclamation if your need to blow cash is just that great.
I always had a lot of respect for the common sense of the folks from Montana. “Had” is the operative word in that sentence.

That’s mighty close to the Alberta Border. I wonder if it’ll leak across? One million tons of ‘carbon’ eh? Out of how many billion? More wasted energy with an unknown outcome.


Funny, because thousands of tons per day are “mined” from CO2 Production Wells in Mississippi… much of the CO2 sold from these wells is NOT sequestered in EOR, but is sold for food processing, beer, etc.

Well, we got our Standard and Poors downgrade today, and it is just because of this kind of stuff. We borrow money to do stuff like this? Then that money is on our tab the rest of our lives? I would rather they took the cash down to the ghetto and gave it out, than put it in a hole in the ground.

I’ve got a better way to get rid of Satan’s gas, commonly called carbon dioxide. Make an airtight greenhouse, put trees in big pots so that they have room to grow, pump it full of CO2 and nitrogen, have a built-in and automatic watering system, and let nature get rid of the gas that kills babies and punches kittens.
Seriously, CO2 is not evil! You don’t need to waste all this energy to drill just to remove it from the atmosphere. My greenhouse idea will rid the atmosphere of CO2, cost less money, and produce something that benefits us all. But when you have a pseudo-scare you need a pseudo-solution that wastes real money that has to be borrowed from a country who cares nothing about the pseudo-scare.
It is things like this that make me wonder how much more stupid humans can get. I want to ask them, how much energy will it take to sequester 1 million tons of CO2? How much will the temperature drop by removing that much CO2? How much CO2 are you putting into the atmosphere to capture that much CO2, transport that much CO2, and drill to sequester CO2? Are you using “green” energy to capture CO2, and if not, why not? How much money is each person going to make to carry out this plan and why does the director need such a big house?


What a political scam. Energy companies, including the one I work for have been extracting, transporting and re-injecting CO2 for 20+ years in New Mexico and West Texas. They will learn nothing that is not already known.

Doug in Seattle

Didn’t the Canadians try something quite similar in Saskatchewan? If I remember correctly that test is leaking CO2.

Jay Davis



“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”.
P.S Rather than take the bus down to the protest at Parliament House in Canberra, I’ll be driving my nice big comfortable sedan that has a nice big 6 litre V8, and I have my “I my carbon footprint” bumper sticker on order. Take that.


(in my anger, I left out a love heart: “I my carbon footprint”. Sigh)


Ah – this blog doesn’t allow angled backets, for now obvious reasons.
It angers me that this blog has taken the wind out of my sails. ;^)

Time to abolish the Department of Energy (along with many others).
/Mr Lynn

I’m trying to understand.

The overall goal of the project is to demonstrate that CO2 can be stored safely and viably in regional geologic formations.

Okay, but…

The project site will be located at Kevin Dome (pronounced kee-vin), a geologic feature that extends 700 square miles underground and has trapped naturally occurring carbon dioxide (CO2) for millions of years. There are barrier rock layers above the CO2 that prevent gas or other liquids from migrating to the surface.

So — doesn’t that kind of already prove their point? This thing has stored CO2 safely for “millions of years.”
And how much CO2 is going to be generated by the huge machines drilling almost a mile into the earth, not to mention the supporting infrastructure and transportation for workers? And all of this to take CO2 from one part of the cavern and inject it into another part of the cavern?
Obviously the real reason for this project is to keep money out of the school systems which might otherwise educate the population to the point that they know this is a load of crap.
Or — is this a hoax? That’s it, isn’t it? It’s a hoax. Of course. Nobody, but nobody would be this stupid.
Good one. You really had me going there.

Honest ABE

It is too bad this subsidized stupidity isn’t occurring in DC – when this goes horribly wrong the people responsible for it should be right in the middle of it.


This is over the top, America is broke- it “doesn’t have a pot to piss in”. And yet they are going to blow $67 Million which will turn into a S billion in the blink of an eye!
The news tonight is the USA credit rating has been down graded from AAA to AA+- this is bad news but so might stop the needless waste such as this experiment in failure. The Obama is progressive administration finished the economy will go into a free fall!


It’s tough to stay calm amidst such insanity.


What if something goes wrong, the well blows, and instead of sequestering CO2 the project ends up releasing into the atmosphere the CO2 that was previously sequestered?


roughly speaking the CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing 1000 toms every 2 sec. So if you sequester 1,000,000 toms you have saved the planet approx 30 minutes of CO2 increasing. And for only 67 million dollars what a great venture !!!!


Please try to remember that when the government creates shovel-ready jobs it is for the express purpose of throwing money down a hole.


Here’s how it works. We put up 18 million. That gets the Fed in here with their 67 Million, all spent in the state, for a cost-benefit ratio of 1:3.7 in our favor. If the rest of you guys are dumb enough to spent this kind of money on foolishness, the least we can do is be available to accept it. Yippee ti yay!


All that fuss, energy and money spent on trace Leaverite.
If they only had a brain, they would be selling the CO2 or using it in large greenhouses.
Someone forgot to tell them about waste not, want not.

Wayne Delbeke

CO2 injection has been done for years all over North America. The “new” thing is testing different formations for long term storage but a lot of it is simply putting a “green” face on things that have been done for years under the name of “enhanced oil recovery”.
Montana has a bunch of oil, shale gas, survivalists and nut Hollywood environmentalists imported from California – Montana recently blocked the shipment of equipment to the Alberta Oil Sands and they have done it previously. The interesting thing is that the upgraded oil is sent back to Montana and other US locations for refining into gasoline so by blocking that shipment of equipment, Montana is killing Montana jobs. Course no one has accused the Governor of Montana of being a genius.
Montana used to be my favourite port of entry into the US when driving from Alberta. Now I go to Idaho where they appreciate my tourist dollar.

Richard carroll

Harry Reid, in an interview suggested that one of the first cuts to be made by the deficit compromise will be carbon sequestrian which He implied next to defense the Republicans love.

Gary Hladik

Dennis says (August 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm): “If the rest of you guys are dumb enough to spent this kind of money on foolishness, the least we can do is be available to accept it. Yippee ti yay!”
Oh, wow, you Montanans certainly are clever, except that there are 49 other states spending your money on their projects!
The US will never get its AAA bond rating back until the voters realize that there’s nothing quite as expensive as a free lunch.
(And yes, I realize Dennis wrote in jest.)


I have to wonder how involved Ted Turner is in all of this.

What a !@#$%^&* waste of time and money!
Obviously there is always somebody out there who is willing to make money when its being offered with no strings attached regarding success or failure. It’s the perfect legal scam!


Why listen to comedians or go to comedy movies? We have the all the Democrats and some Republicans too, that we can rely on for a good time.
Meanwhile, Germany is scrapping solar and going coal. Too fantastic to be believable, this whole warm-earther fiasco.


It saddens me to know that my grandchildren will have to pay for all this wasteful spending, or possibly they won’t as the present government seems to be heading us for bankruptcy, Of course the consequences of either scenario are probably equally extreme.
Keep in mind that is in addition to CCS plant to be built in Illinois for a project that was previously cancelled because of enormous overruns. It is a shame that the $$$ the congress recently authorized by raising the debt ceiling is being squandered as quickly as possible.
Don’t they realize that besides the waste, the energy required to execute these projects is huge. The energy to compresss the CO2 for injection makes these projects totally non economic in the real world. Then again Washington does not seem to live in the relal world.

Funny, digging expensive holes. Since the Alpha Kappa Psi brothers… Sam Walton, Richard Nixon and Ronald Raygun they’ve been digging us into a hole. The last three administrations have been digging and asking for more shovels. Help us China, oh please help us, buy our debt! Please!!!
Alright, Canada was in the same mess and got themselves out. We can do it too. What does the world need? Cheap energy. We have it. Cheniere Energy is building a port. LNG is change we can believe in. We have a lot more oil than we knew about also. Now can we please elect a leader who is not a slut or a narcissistic drunken fool or a rank amateur please? Buy American every time it’s possible. Put people to work, get revenue up, and live within your means.


“It is a shame that the $$$ the congress recently authorized by raising the debt ceiling is being squandered as quickly as possible.”
The reason given to raise the debt ceiling was so that the US credit rating would not be downgraded. Or so the politicians and press predicted. Now that the debt ceiling has been raised, the credit rating has been downgraded.
Who could have predicted? What will all the economic models, how could they have been so wrong that they couldn’t even predict 3 days in advance? And they tell us they can predict the world 100 years into the future.
Every child born in the US is automatically $50k in debt, and rising sharply. Most of it owed to China. Selling people into slavery used to at one time be illegal. No longer. Indentured Servitude, courtesy of the US government. While Rome burns, Nero fiddles.


This is beyond stupid. It is economic and physical idiocy. What a waste of time. Can anyone imagine what that amount of money would do if directed at something useful? Like termite or cockroach control?


Our stupid government is bowing to the greenies. It makes me want to barf. The EPA should be shut down immediately before they regulate our country into a third world nation. When the US catches a cold, the rest of the world comes down with the flu.

old construction worker

“I have to wonder how involved Ted Turner is in all of this.”
Ted maybe leasing the land to them.

F. Patrick Crowley

As a 1960’s graduate of the University of Montana, I would have thought that the hippies in Missoula would have thought of this first, but then I realized they have already perfected their own GHG sequestration process. 1040 ppm CO2 concentrations in their greenhouses for medical marijuana makes the pot grow really stoner buds.
But then perhaps the Griz (U of M) were the source of inspiration for the MSU project. Go Bobcats!


CO2 reservoirs available to man:
limestone 60000000 gigatonnes
sediments 15000000 gigatonnes
methane clathrates 11000 gigatonnes
DIC deep 38000 gigatonnes
mineral 1220 gigatonnes
Atmosphere 750 gigatonnes
DOC deep 700 gigatonnes
other soil 600 gigatonnes
Plants 550 gigatonnes
peat 360 gigatonnes
POC soil 250 gigatonnes
DOC surface 40 gigatonnes
POC deep 20 gigatonnes
microbial 15 gigatonnes
POC surface 5 gigatonnes
Montana sequestration 0.001 gigatonne


Agree with Grant Hodges & Dave. Chop DOE, NASA-GISS and most of the EPA. What about sacking everyone that earns more than $100,000 at the EPA, that would turn the country around quickly (ie more productivity) and at the sametime save hundreds on millions in useless payments.


What? Only spending $67 million.
Across the border, Alberta has committed $2 billion into a similar scheme.

Wayne Delbeke

Sample of How the IPCC AR5 will be developed: (Warning – Humour intended)
Copper wire:
After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York Scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion, that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.
Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, A story in the LA Times read: “California archaeologists, finding of 200 year old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers”
One week later. A local newspaper in Mississippi reported the following: “After digging as deep as 30 feet in his pasture near Laurel, Mississippi, Bubba, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Bubba has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Mississippi had already gone wireless”.
Nothing to see here. Move on 😉


Just after posting I read this “Inhofe Calls on Obama EPA to Halt Ozone Standard Announcement Given Scientific Integrity Concerns” at
The EPA & Lisa Jackson are about destroying jobs & productivity by undemocratic means.


The moment we stop spending money at so called climate problems, our economy will start growing. And the world will be a better place.


jaymam says:
August 5, 2011 at 10:15 pm
Thanks for the numbers. They put a real perspective on the level of stupidity stalking the world today. Don’t these people realise when a man can no longer feed his family he not going to sit down and cry?

nutso fasst

GregS, let’s see if html entities work here:
Plants ♥ CO₂.
(Plants ♥ CO₂.)

nutso fasst

Entities worked, but the display of code didn’t. I’ll try to display coding a different way:
(Plants ♥ CO₂.)

Gary Hladik

pat says (August 5, 2011 at 9:59 pm): “Can anyone imagine what that amount of money would do if directed at something useful? Like termite or cockroach control?”
Yer darn tootin’! I say we start with Washington, DC, then Sacramento, then…
Wait, did pat mean six-legged vermin or the two-legged variety? 🙂

I hope they strike oil.


You know, if the Montanans really want to help our environment, a better application would be to use those wells to sequester the radioactive liquids from the nuclear power plants. If the formation will retain gas, I’m certain it will easily retain a liquid injection.
Save the farmers – free the CO2!


If it’s so safe why don’t they put radioactive waste in there rather than CO2?


RE: Title
The Big Sky “drill baby drill” project – just another dry hole into which taxpayer money is sequestered
I think ‘money sequestration’ is a good description of ‘CO2 sequestration’ with the understanding that this is sequestration without the possibility of recovery in the first case and without the intention to recover in the second.
At current concentration levels, I believe water vapor is the primary climate control agent in the troposphere–that portion of our lowest atmosphere where cloud forming vertical circulation occurs.