Basalt Pilot Overview

Phase II Basalt Injection Phase

On July 17, 2013, scientists working with the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP), Battelle, and other partners began injecting CO2 into a deep basalt formation located near Wallula, Washington. After an extensive characterization process and laboratory testing, BSCSP is excited to proceed to the next phase of research involving the injection and monitoring of 1,000 tons of CO2 into the basalt reservoir. The unique geochemical properties of basalts quickly react with CO2 and form solid minerals suggesting the long-term security and permanent storage capabilities of basalt formations in North American and throughout the world.

  • To read the press release, click here.
  • To read the Department of Energy's press announcement, click here.


Project Overview
Continental flood basalts are extensive geologic features that formed from lava flows millions of years ago. Due to their vast presence in North America and throughout the world, scientists and decision-makers are increasingly interested in flood basalts as potential sites for the permanent underground storage of carbon dioxide (CO2). In an effort to characterize and assess the geologic storage potential of the Big Sky region, BSCSP is conducting a small-scale field project near Wallula, Washington. The Basalt Pilot Project is a collaborative endeavor involving the cooperative efforts of scientists, industry leaders, and stakeholders.

Distribution of Global Basalt Provinces

Project Goals & Objectives
The overarching goal of the project is to examine the injection, fate, and transport of injected CO2 within deep underground basalt formations. The project objectives are to:

  • Conduct geological site characterization activities to ensure the site is a safe location to inject CO2.
  • Participate in public outreach activities in an effort to engage local stakeholders in the process.
  • Address and comply with all local, state, and federal permitting procedures.
  • Inject 1,000 tons of CO2 into the underground basalt formation.

This project will provide a better understanding on the viability and feasibility of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies within other similar geologic settings. This is important because carbon storage options have been identified by policy-makers as an important initial step in reducing the concentration of global greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Furthermore, laboratory experiments indicate basalts are unique in their potential to relatively quickly react and solidify with CO2, forming hard carbonate minerals, effectively permanently trapping the CO2 underground. The injection phase will test this behavior in a natural geologic setting and be the first field demonstration of its kind in the United States. Results from the field test will provide scientists with crucial information on the potential for basalt formations to provide permanent storage of CO2 emissions.

Research Site
The Basalt pilot site is situated approximately 11 miles south of the town of Pasco in eastern Washington. The land where the small-scale demonstration test is being conducted is located on property privately owned by Boise White Paper Inc. The study site is part of the Grande Rhonde basalt formation located within the larger Columbia River Basalt Province. Similar to most basalt features, the Grande Rhonde is composed of layered rocks that alternate between ancient hardened lava flows and more porous rock features. While the porous rocks are ideal for trapping injected CO2, the bed of hardened lava effectively functions as a caprock and seals the injected CO2 from leaking to the surface.


Site of Basalt Pilot Study - Boise White Paper Inc., Wallula, Washington

Project Description

Project Components
During the first phase of research, BSCSP performed an extensive characterization process which involved an in-depth assessment of the research area, including both surface and subsurface properties. During this process, scientists collected and analyzed a large amount of data on the basalt formations, including geochemical composition, mineral content, seismic information, satellite imagery, core samples, and chemical trace elements. Analyses of these components allowed scientists to select the most optimal geologic zone for CO2 injection and understand how the CO2 will react, move and respond once injected underground(see “Injection Zone Characteristics” below.) Specific methods included:

On July 17, 2013, researchers began the injection of 1,000 tons of CO2 into the basalt formation. The injection took place over a month and provided scientists with the unique opportunity to study and assess the CO2 in real-time within a natural geologic setting. The CO2 was maintained at uniform temperature and pressure and was injected at a constant rate. Tracer elements were additionally injected along with the CO2 for detection and monitoring of the CO2 underground. Using downhole sensors and monitoring systems, the scientists are able to monitor the CO2 behavior and chemistry deep within the reservoir.

Monitoring Program:
Scientists are following detailed procedures throughout the CO2 injection process to monitor the injected gas and other important variables. There are downhole pressure and temperature gauges taking continuous measurements from the subsurface environment and scientists are also pulling fluid samples to monitor the geochemistry. The monitoring program also includes well logging which provides a continuous record of the rock properties within the borehole. The data from the well logging will yield information on wellbore integrity and CO2 saturation. The logs will also provide insight into how the CO2 is reacting with basalts.


Public Outreach Efforts

Public outreach efforts began in July 2007 and involved a broad range of stakeholders including elected officials, tribal members, business leaders, local citizen groups, media sources, and others in the region. Boise and Battelle worked closely together to develop and execute a joint stakeholder involvement plan, including:

  • Providing up-to-date information on the project’s progress,
  • Identifying people and organizations in the community with vested interests in the area and proactively approaching them to elicit key concerns and questions about the project,
  • Working extensively with various stakeholders to resolve issues and conflicting goals and,
  • Participating with a broader network of people, organizations and other groups in the region in order to establish a framework to understand the larger implications of carbon capture and storage technologies and climate change.

Meetings with community leaders and local citizens were conducted to describe and inform participants of the partnership’s intentions and objectives. Key media outlets were also contacted and invited to visit the site and meet with site coordinators. In addition, open houses and tours were offered to interested focus groups in the region. Later, a geology class from the local college toured the laboratories and drilling site, resulting in summer intern positions and an increased awareness of the project’s goals. During the injection phase, an open house event was hosted at the project site and allowed the public, stakeholders, and media to tour the project area and witness the injection of the CO2.


Accomplishments To Date

As one of the world’s first carbon storage projects into basalt formations, the Wallula Basalt pilot test is providing crucial knowledge regarding the long-term potential to safely and securely store CO2 within deep underground basalt environments. Project successes have included:

  • Injection – In July 2013, scientists began injecting 1,000 tons of CO2 into the Grande Rhonde basalt formation. Injection will proceed for the next two weeks and will be extensively monitored to assess how the injected CO2 responds, moves and behaves within the surrounding basalt setting.
  • Seismic Work – The results from the Basalt pilot seismic survey represent the first known success of surface-based imaging of basalt geology as well as the first detailed reconnaissance-level characterization of the Columbia River Basalt Province within the state of Washington.
  • Monitoring Activities – By taking extensive surface and subsurface environmental measurements, the project is equipped to monitor the CO2 over time and gain valuable information on the carbon storage potential in basalt formations.


Future Directions
Following the injection of 1,000 tons of CO2 into the research site in July 2013, researchers will actively be involved with the in-depth monitoring and long-term management of the research area. Working closely with their Wallula partners, including Battelle, Boise Inc., Energy Solutions, PraxAir, Schlumberger, Shell, Portland General Electric and the Washington Department of Ecology, BSCSP will continue to actively engage with the public to provide up-to-date information, research findings and other outcomes produced from the injection and monitoring phase of the basalt carbon storage project.