The Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership currently hosts an interactive mapping application with data covering four general themes. The mapping portal was created for you to explore geospatial data including project locations, CO2 sinks and sources, regional geology, and land ownership. Each of the four mapping themes is described below. If you are new to GIS, check out our GIS resources page and mapping tutorial for a quick introduction.
The Big Sky Region encompasses the states of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, Washington and Oregon. The Big Sky Partnership has geologic and terrestrial carbon sequestration projects in Montana, Wyoming and Washington. Our Phase II demonstration project is located in Walla Walla County, Washington and approximately 6 miles north of the Washington – Oregon state line. Visit the Basalt Pilot page for more detailed information about this project. Montana’s "Golden Triangle" serves as an outdoor laboratory for many of the partnership’s cropland studies while eastern Wyoming is the host for rangeland and grassland project sites. Learn more about these studies on the Terrestrial Activities page. Our Phase III geologic injection pilot site is located in north central Montana, near the Canadian border.
The Big Sky Partnership has investigated and compiled geospatial data concerning stationary carbon dioxide sources as well as potential geologic and terrestrial sinks. CO2 point sources are industrial facilities like cement plants, coal-fired electric plants, petroleum processing plants, and even sugar and paper production plants. The Big Sky Region produces roughly 120 million tons of CO2 per year which represents a modest 3% of the national annual CO2 emissions.
The term geologic sink (or geologic storage) refers to the storage of CO2 in underground rock formations. Three main geologic sinks have been evaluated for storage capacity (how much CO2 could they store long-term) and include: saline formations, depleted oil and gas reservoirs, and unmineable coal seams. The estimated geologic storage volume in the Big Sky Region is 13,850,000 million tons. Therefore, the Big Sky Region has the potential to store about 160,000 years of CO2 produced in this region.
Research in the field of terrestrial sequestration investigates how land management practices influence how much carbon can be stored in agricultural soils. Estimated agricultural soil carbon fluxes were produced using the CENTURY biochemical model (NREL-CSU), a point model that produces monthly or annual time-step estimates of soil carbon stocks, given specified site, climate and management scenarios. The "Agricultural Soil CO2 Flux" layer in the interactive map shows the estimated soil carbon fluxes respective to a continuation of existing land use practices on currently associated areas.
Energy use and CO2 emissions will increase as the population of the Big Sky Region continues to rise. This has implications on how coal-rich states like Montana and Wyoming use their resources and develop new electric facilities. Estimating population growth through the region allows research scientists working on carbon sequestration to account for these increases.
Geology in the Big Sky region is extremely diverse. Washington and Oregon are dominated by volcanic activity, recent and ancient, comprised of thick basalt formations. The Big Sky Partnership’s Phase II pilot project is in the developing phases of injecting 1,000 tons of CO2 into a formation of the Columbia River Basalt Group. Southern Idaho is mainly comprised of basalt of the Snake River Plain which was formed as the North American plate moved over the Yellowstone plume system. The earthquake data clearly shows the ‘bow wake’ around the northeast-southwest trending boundary of the Snake River Plain.
Western Montana and Wyoming are characterized by thin-skinned fold-and-thrust systems produced by the Sevier Orogeny. The earthquake data also shows the outline of the front of this complex fault system. The fold-and- thrust belt created the LaBarge platform and Moxa Arch geological features in south western Wyoming.
Thick-skinned Laramide style basement uplifts dominate most of Wyoming’s geology. Many large sedimentary basins are located between the mountainous basement uplifts. This kind of dissected geologic domain is referred to as a broken foreland basin.
North eastern Wyoming and south eastern Montana is home to the Powder River Basin. Mainly sub-bituminous coal is mined from this basin which is defined by 35-45% carbon content and a heat value between 8,300 and 13,000 BTUs-per-pound. This type of coal generally has lower sulfur content than other types making it attractive for use because it burns cleaner. The Powder River Basin is the single largest source of coal mined in the United States, and contains one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. As a result, Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state in the United States since 1988.
The Big Sky region is an area rich in natural resources and in energy resources. The region produces 264.7 million megawatt hours of electricity from a large variety of sources including hydropower, coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, wood derived fuels, biomass, petroleum, other gases and geothermal. The region as a whole produces most of its electricity from hydroelectric and coal. However, individual states in the region have unique and contrasting energy profiles.
The six-state region also contains large areas of federal land managed by the BLM, Bureau of Indian Affairs, DoD, DOE, FS, FWS, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, There are also many national parks, state parks, state wildlife management areas, and federal wildlife refuges in this region. Many of these lands demonstrate the potential for carbon sequestration activities. However, due to the high proportion of federal and state owned lands managed by various government agencies, and the different policies and regulations for permitting sequestration related activities on these lands, such activities will be unique to each site based on surface and subsurface ownership and regulatory frameworks.