GoMCarb Project Final meeting – CCS in Offshore Gulf of Mexico


By Tim Dixon

11 April 2023

GoMCarb is a US DOE funded project intended to develop offshore CCS capabilities for the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). It has been running for 5 years, led by the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) at the University of Texas at Austin. This annual meeting was held in conjunction with the SECARB Offshore project and had 217 attendees. This blog will cover primarily the GoMCarb project as it was its final annual meeting.

The GoMCarb project’s objectives were :

  • To develop a partnership combining industry, academia and government
  • To develop and validate key technologies and best practices to ensure safe, long-term, economically-viable offshore carbon storage
  • To facilitate the development of technology-focussed permitting processes.

It is safe to say that over its five years GoMCarb has achieved and exceeded all of these objectives, and with great timing given that the Inflation Reduction Act is stimulating commercial projects and offshore regulations are currently in development for the USA by the regulators (who are active participants in the GoMCarb project).

In this final annual meeting, presentations were given primarily on the last years’ work. Some of particular note are summarised here.

Ramon Gil-Egui presented on how to include Societal Considerations and Impacts (SCI) and Community Benefit Plans (CBPs) in CCS projects. BEG is planning further work in this area, with a knowledge sharing centre for the region.

Katherine Romanak presented on a public survey in the Gulf Coast region on monitoring technologies. This work classified two types of public, ‘higher scientific orientation’ and ‘lower scientific orientation’. There were useful conclusions drawn on the benefits of engaging more with the higher scientific orientation members of the public and allowing them to communicate with the lower scientific orientation public.

Alex Bump presented on the CCS training courses developed and delivered by the GoMCarb team. Sixteen courses have been delivered all around the world (virtually), many aimed at ‘repurposing’ oil and gas professionals for CCS.

Tip Meckel gave an update on legislation, many developments in the US States to cover, with BEG informing at both Federal and State level. Tip later covered the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) new Task Force on offshore permitting. He also announced two new US DOE-CarbonSAFE Phase 2 projects to develop the feasibility of CCS projects in offshore Gulf of Mexico, one with the Port of Corpus Christi and BEG in Texas, and one with SSEB in Louisiana.

Infrastructure was covered by several talks, including reuse and mapping by Darshan Sachde of Trimeric. Of particular note from the SECARB project was the presentation on subsea infrastructure such as Christmas trees and dynamic umbilicals, by Kjartan Pedersen of Aker.

Alex Bump gave a very informative talk, building on his earlier definition of the “pressure space” subsurface available for storage, and using this to see how to minimise conflict with legacy wells. The GoM has around 1.1 million wells, so quite a challenge to avoid them. He identified that there will be a ‘first-mover’ advantage for companies acquiring the rights to subsurface storage areas, noting that competition will develop for the ‘pressure space’ between projects in the same area, and already a ‘gold rush’ is developing in the GoM.

In the monitoring task, Jonathan Ajo-Franklin of Rice University gave a most interesting presentation on the use of distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) using fibre optics mounted on the seafloor, and the consequent integration of monitoring verification and accounting using passive acoustics. DAS can replace hydrophones and can detect leakage and potentially quantify it. The laboratory work to date has demonstrated it effectiveness, what is planned next is a small-scale field test later this year. He concluded that there would be benefits from having a “ZERT of the Bay” (ZERT was a CO2 controlled release project in Montana).

Abdirahman Omar of Norce gave a presentation on his work on Cseep, a method for CO2 anomaly attribution in the marine environment which was developed under the EU’s STEMM-CCS project, and is being translated to the GoM and tested with GoM data by him and Katherine Romanak. Katherine continued to present wellbore leakage scenarios in the GoM provided by NRAP simulations by Rajesh Pawar, and she placed these in the PML-created scale of impacts graph. She concluded that such worst case leakage scenarios would be hard to detect, because they would be small, including compared to other human activities, which is good. However the GoM has unique environmental processes which are different to the North Sea (the location of STEMM-CCS and PML work) so more data is needed to characterise this marine environment through its complex and frequent environmental changes.

In the storage resources task, Alex Bump further elaborated on his ‘pressure space’ mapping in the GoM, to provide a more realistic assessment of storage potential, which up to 90% less than some estimates that are being publicised.

Seyyed Hossieni summarised the BEG work to use machine learning and artificial intelligence on subsurface data to inform permitting processes. These advanced data techniques were also covered by Kelly Rose of NETL in their EDX work for offshore data, including predicting environmental changes due to climate change.

In the context of the offshore regulations being currently developed by BOEM and BSEE in the US, I was asked to present on the background and basis of the London Protocol’s regulations and requirements.

Sue Hovorka of BEG led the GoMCarb work, and her and Ben Wernette of SSEB (SECARB lead) gave the closing comments to this two and a half day meeting, thanking all involved for the progress made to assist CCS in the GoM.

I was honoured to be chair of the GoMCarb Advisory Committee, which had met ten times in total. The feedback from these internationally-recognised experts was very appreciative of the work by GoMCarb, observing that it had achieved and exceeded its original objectives, and wishing for it to continue further.

The presentations will be made available on the GCCC website in due course About the Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) | Bureau of Economic Geology (utexas.edu). We look forward to some of these results being shared in the 6th Offshore CCS Workshop in Aberdeen in September.

In terms of next steps, with the two CarbonSAFE projects and commercial CO2 storage projects being developed, there is a lot of CCS activity underway in the GoM, all able to build on the good work by BEG and GoMCarb. Somewhat of a “gold rush” as Alex Bump described it. Watch this GoM space!

Tip Meckel presenting legislative updates. IEAGHG General Manager Tim Dixon presenting on London Protocol. Group photo courtesy Dolores van der Kolk BEG.

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