Bureau of Economic Geology

Gulf Coast Carbon Center

CarbonSAFE Pre-Feasibility Study in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico


Project Period:  February 1, 2017 – July 30, 2018
Project Title: Integrated CCS Pre-Feasibility in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico – CarbonSAFE Phase I


CarbonSAFE Region



The Gulf of Mexico region has a long tradition of global leadership in research, technological development and specialized human resources in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors that have impacted the world economy. These sectors are expanding with the “tight oil” and “shale gas” boom generating wealth and jobs. It is expected that this expansion will impact emissions, increasing its national share.

The sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico energy ecosystem is tied to its de-carbonization through carbon capture and storage (CCS) ready-to-go technology. The presence of highly concentrated industrial clusters with large amounts of high purity CO2 sources, extensive oil and gas operational and financial infrastructure, availability of highly trained workforce, and the unequaled proximity to the vast offshore storage capacity make the Gulf of Mexico region ideal for CCS commercial deployments.

The Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) of the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL) projects focused on the development of geologic storage sites for the storage of 50+ million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial sources. CarbonSAFE projects improved the understanding of project screening, site selection, characterization, and baseline monitoring, verification, accounting (MVA), and assessment procedures, as well as the information necessary to submit appropriate permits and design injection and monitoring strategies for commercial-scale projects. These efforts will contribute to the development of 50+ MMT storage sites in anticipation of injection by 2026. 

As part of the Integrated CCS Pre-Feasibility phase of the CarbonSAFE Initiative, researchers aimed to demonstrate that saline and depleted hydrocarbon storage reservoirs within a storage complex can store industrial CO2 emissions safely, permanently, and economically.


Project Description

The Gulf Coast Carbon Center partnered with Lamar University and Trimeric LLC to implement a large-scale carbon capture, transport, and storage project in the Houston-Beaumont-Port Arthur (Golden Triangle) region of southeastern Texas. The DOE-NETL funded the project in an effort to promote clean energy. CarbonSAFE will generate sustained job growth and economic benefits to southeastern Texas.

The project began in 2017 with a one-year pre-feasibility study before a further feasibility and implementation phase leading to storage in 2025 was planned to begin. The project linked a nine-county area between Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, which contains 45 industrial CO2 sources and 10 power plant sources to an exceptionally large volume and well-known saline and/or depleted hydrocarbon geologic storage sub-basin beneath the near-shore shelf of the northwest Gulf of Mexico. The GCCC contacted community partners within the area and carried out a community impact study. The combination of key stakeholder commitment, the well-characterized geologic storage complex containing multiple likely storage sites, and the abundant industrial and power plant sources in the region and transportation availability to link them create favorable conditions for advancement.


Project Benefits

The researchers located a number of viable reservoirs capable of storing CO2 in the range of 50+ million metric tons on the inner shelf of the Northwest Gulf of Mexico. This project supported the DOE's Carbon Storage Program goals to develop and validate technologies that will ensure 99% storage permanence, improve storage efficiency while maintaining containment effectiveness, improve industry's ability to predict CO2 storage capacity to within plus or minus 30 percent, and develop Best Practice Manuals for key activities in developing and operating storage projects. The University of Texas at Austin effort supported the Carbon Storage Program mission to develop and advance CCS technologies, for widespread commercial deployment in the 2025-2035 timeframe, that will ensure safe, secure, efficient, and cost-effective CO2 containment in diverse geologic formations.


Based on three models for capacity assessment, the study proposes a base case for the High Island 10-L Field in which 9 wells operated for 12 years each completed into 4 zones will emplace a total of 150MMT of CO2 with wells placed in the water leg where all the plume will slowly migrate into the structural trap is feasible in terms of geology and engineering. The 10-L Field is large enough to accept CO2 from multiple sinks. The expanded sinks are estimated to be large enough to accept all the CO2 from the region plus some from outside the region, exemplifying what future CCS projects might be accomplished in the favorable Gulf of Mexico region of the US with the potential to expand the sites to a larger set to experiment with matching all the possible sources to sinks. 

The study demonstrates that industrial source clusters connected to a transport hub delivering CO2 to a nearby storage complex is the most cost-effective and improved way to de-carbonize industrial activities, particularly, in an expected low-carbon and increasing carbon price environment. The feasibility of the new business models should be based on the best use of the existing infrastructure and strategically build upon new supporting infrastructure to drive down the costs of large-scale CCS deployment. Assessing the pre-feasibility of the commercial implementation of a CCS cluster and hub in the Gulf of Mexico energy ecosystem, our study links these elements successfully through an optimized combination (minimum cost) of CO2 sources on land with offshore storage, which has several advantages, including: 

  1. Adding large capacity to serve local, regional, and potentially broader objectives
  2. Lowering risk by providing storage with one public owner, away from the population, with no conflict with water resources and reduced concern about induced seismicity.


Final Report

Download the final report for this study here on ScholarWorks.



DeAngelo, M.V., Fifariz, R., Meckel, T., Treviño, R.H., 2019. A seismic-based CO2-sequestration regional assessment of the Miocene section, northern Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control 81, 29–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijggc.2018.12.009.

Klokov, A., Meckel, T.A., Treviño, R.H., 2018. Confining system integrity assessment by detection of natural gas migration using seismic diffractions. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control 75, 32–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijggc.2018.05.001.

Tutton, P.M. (2018). Carbon Capture and Storage Network Optimization Under Uncertainty (Master's thesis, University of Texas at Austin). http://hdl.handle.net/2152/68750.

[More coming soon]


Resulting data mapped to the region of interest

Offshore data evaluated during the CarbonSAFE Texas project


This study is funded and managed by the U.S. DOE/NETL, under award number DE-FE0029487.

Last updated: July 15, 2019


The objectives of the proposed study were to perform a commercial-scale initial characterization of a near-offshore storage complex on the inner shelf of the Gulf of Mexico that could lead to the future permitting of a safe and economic 50+ million metric ton CO2 geologic storage complex with at least one specific storage site. The Northwest Gulf of Mexico CarbonSAFE project was planned to advance beyond the storage site characterization completed by considering specific injection reservoirs in detail (as opposed to regional analysis), matching sources and sinks efficiently, engaging deeply with significant industrial sources that can be incorporate in the near term, engaging deeply with the key stakeholders, evaluating the evolution from CO2 use for EOR to large volume storage in saline formations, and developing concrete and detailed plans to act on the near term to mature the storage resource.

CarbonSAFE Milestones
Specific Objectives:

Task 1: Project Management and Planning

This Task included the necessary activities to ensure coordination and planning of the project with DOE/NETL and other project participants. These activities included, but were not limited to, the monitoring and controlling of project scope, cost, schedule, and risk, and the submission and approval of required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation. Project team meetings were held on a regular basis to share plans, data, and results; assess progress and discuss and resolve questions and problems. Participation in annual NETL review meetings were undertaken.

Task 2: CCS Coordination Team Formation

This task included all the activities to form a team capable of addressing the technical and non-technical challenges specific to commercial-scale deployment of the proposed CO2 storage project. The coordination team collectively addressed regulatory, legislative, technical, public policy, commercial, and financial challenges specific to commercial-scale deployment of the CO2 storage project. Team members were from industry, academia, and research groups, serving in a quasi-advisory board role for the storage complex project.

Major subtasks of this particular objective included the identification of several technical challenges:

  1. Locating a geologic storage complex with a specific site(s),
  2. Identifying large-scale anthropogenic CO2 sources (including separation technology and negotiating access to CO2),
  3. Identifying the most feasible logistics for transport and delivery from source to storage site(s)
  4. Understanding the financial negotiations required of private institutions to provide adequate project funding.

Major subtasks of this particular objective included the identification of several non-technical challenges:

  1. Fostering relationships necessary to gain public acceptance and developing an implementation plan,
  2. Identifying and addressing the legal and political challenges associated with a large-scale storage complex, including property rights, liability, monitoring and verification requirements, and stakeholder interests.

Task 3: High-level technical evaluation of sub-basinal storage and integrated risk assessment

This task included all the activities to conduct a sub-basinal geologic storage assessment and integrated risk assessment in the region of the proposed project.

  • Storage Complex Geologic Characterization: This task included all work elements that will perform a high-level technical commercial-scale initial geological characterization of a 50+ million metric ton storage complex, with one or more storage sites. Activities included the development of comprehensive datasets of formation characteristics (porosity, permeability, mineralogy, injectivity, fluid composition, geochemical conditions, stratigraphy, and cap rock/seal integrity) to determine the suitability of the proposed geologic storage sites within the storage complex. This included identification and evaluation of existing data (including NATCARB) that was publically available for purchase from vendors or operators that was useful for evaluating the storage complex.
  • Integrated Risk Assessment Modeling (IAM): This subtask included all the activities for utilizing and validating tools of DOE’s National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP), including carbon storage (NRAP-IAM-GS). These tools assisted in evaluating several parts of the carbon storage subsurface containment system (e.g. reservoirs, seals, wells) as they relate to two major types of environmental risks: leakage and induced seismicity. A crucial gap for offshore projects is understanding the geomechanical response of relatively young and incompletely lithified Miocene-age stratigraphy to large scale injection and pressure perturbations.

Task 4: Site Development Plan

This task included all the activities to develop a plan encompassing technical requirements as well as both economic feasibility and public acceptance of an eventual storage project. This task prepared technical information to support the storage complex’s level of readiness for additional development.

  • Technical Requirements: This task included all work elements to meet the technical requirements to advance to Phase II. This included further specifying CO2 source and capture, transportation (including considerations for rail, barge, ship, and pipeline rights-of-way), injection well design and permitting. This task also developed a CO2 management strategy to ensure the reliability of one or more CO2 sources, including chemical composition, pressure and temperature, rate of delivery, reliability, and delivery method to the injection site.
  • Economic Feasibility: This task included all work elements that will assess the economic feasibility of the proposed storage complex, including acquisition surface and pore space rights (in conjunction with the General Land Office), anticipated business contractual requirements necessary to acquire CO2, and anticipated financing needs and strategy for securing financing and/or cost share from third parties. Preliminary economic estimates were developed, with prioritization of scenarios with respect to the probability of eventual implementation.
  • Public Outreach:  This task included all work elements to perform stakeholder outreach, technical training, and public acceptance related to the proposed storage complex development. The STORE program, in coordination with Lamar University (Beaumont), engaged local stakeholders such as municipal and county-level government bodies, offshore fishing industries, Rotary clubs, State parks/reserves, recreational organizations, and students and teachers.

Technical Information

A major goal of CarbonSAFE was to minimize CCS infrastructure cost by analyzing multiple future scenarios and taking into account future demand uncertainty. This required the construction of a spatial and temporal network model from source to sink.

High Quality CO2 Source Inventory

Southeast Texas is one of the largest industrial centers in the United States and has a multitude of CO2 sources. The GCCC identified several potential large scale CO2 sources stemming from hydrogen production, ammonia production, and petroleum and natural gas systems. Sources were ranked based on their CO2 stream, flow rate, and location.

The next step after locating sources of CO2 was figuring out how to transport it to injection sites. The GCCC conducted a series of network and least cost path analyses. This was broken down into a network generation model that uses spatial data to develop least-cost pipeline routes. The second step was to optimize the connection of sources to sinks that consider the least overall cost and future demand uncertainty. Existing pipelines and barge paths were analyzed using a stochastic model that used future estimates of storage needs: 40 MtCO2, 70 MtCO2, and 80 MtCO2. The model allows for consideration of future scenarios and source additions. 

Stochastic Transport Network Models

Stochastic CarbonSAFE transportation network models under various future storage quantities

Sub-Basinal Evaluation

Reservoirs in the Miocene stratigraphy represent ideal and well-understood formations for geologic storage. Decades of offshore petroleum production has led to extensive knowledge of depositional systems and sequence stratigraphic (predictable) context, resulting in well-studied clastic progradational stratigraphy composed of fluvial-deltaic, shoreline, and shallow shelf depositional environments. The Miocene stratigraphy of interest contains abundant clastic (sandstone) reservoirs of exceptional porosity (>25%), permeability (100’s mD), and depth to contain the entire plume area of CO2 in a supercritical state. Depths to these reservoirs vary from approximately 3,000 (nominal supercritical depth) to 10,000 feet (nominal top of overpressure) below the seafloor. These formations are broadly normally pressured (hydrostatic gradient), allowing for reasonable pressure elevation resulting from injection. These storage reservoir targets represent ideal conditions for high injectivity and volumetric storage. Prior offshore CO2 storage characterization studies have identified the formation types and structural settings (e.g. rollover anticline) that have produced the most hydrocarbons, and these same environments represent the best storage opportunities for CO2.

Previous CO2 storage capacity assessments of the storage complex region have estimated the static storage capacity potential of the near offshore region throughout the Texas coast. A summary of these findings and details of the calculations are published in Wallace et al. (2013). Capacity estimates utilized the NETL methodology for 1 mi2 (2.6 km2) grid blocks. Porosity values were determined for each grid block using average interpolated values using existing well logs, and range between 22 and 38%. Net sand thicknesses were also estimated from the integration of well logs and interpreted seismic horizons and are greater than 900 m (3,000 ft) in the storage complex region. The footprint of the previous study estimating capacity was 14,467 sq. mi. (37,470 sq. km.) and efficiency factors used were 0.02, based on the P50 value for saline aquifer sandstone reservoirs recommended by NETL methodology described (Goodman et al., 2011). Total potential estimated gross static storage capacity of the large study area is 172 Gt CO2 (129 Gt net capacity). Considering just the uppermost portion of the study area where the proposed storage complex would be (between Galveston/Trinity Bay and the Louisiana border), gross static capacity assessments exceed 8 Gt CO2, well in excess of the required 50+ MT scale.

10L Location

10L cross section area located between A to A'.

10L Cross Section

10L Cross Section from A to A'.

In the previous Gulf of Mexico Miocene CO2 Site Characterization project, a mudrock unit informally called the “Amph B” that encompasses the Amphistegina B bio-chronostratigraphic zone is identified to be the thickest and most extensive regional confining zone in the Miocene section of the upper Texas coast. The Amph B records a major transgressive event in the northwest Gulf of Mexico Basin that marks the end of the early Miocene at approximately 16 Ma (Galloway, 1989; Fillon and others, 2000; Brown and Loucks, 2009). In the central and upper Texas offshore area, nearly all hydrocarbon production from Miocene-age units underlies the Amph B, attesting to its trapping capability. The Amph B isopach along the Texas coast was mapped using 3D seismic and 712 geophysical well logs in a large study area of 42,261 km2 (16,317 mi2) centered on the Texas State Waters. Additionally, more than 40 faults were interpreted in 3D seismic and used to determine Amph B areal thickness in the proposed storage complex area. The results indicate that the Amph B thickness generally exceeds 500 feet throughout the proposed storage complex. A large number of lower Miocene hydrocarbon accumulations (fields) occur on the hanging wall faults where Amph B net mudstone exceeds 500 feet in thickness. The fields represent natural analogs of fluid entrapment, suggesting that reservoir fairways overlain by a thick, regional Amph B seal should likewise provide adequate confinement for injected CO2.


The paleogeography of the prospect area in the Middle to Lower Miocene.

Seven available mudrock cores of the lower Miocene from offshore Texas and Louisiana were examined by various techniques to determine the sealing properties. The techniques include X-ray Diffraction (XRD), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) on ion-milled samples coupled with Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), Mercury Intrusion Capillary Pressure (MICP), and High-Resolution X-ray Texture Goniometry (HR-XTG). Additionally, drill cuttings from 4 wells located close to the Tiger Shoal gas field were examined by SEM. Multiple datasets showed that the Miocene mudrocks have high sealing capacity because of high degree of compaction, high clay content, and calcite cementation. The mudrock samples contained mostly isolated intra-particle pores that are not connected to the effective pore networks. MICP results showed adequate sealing ability for trapping up to 240 ft of CO2 column. HR-XTG results showed high degree of clay fabric alignment that is correlated with high clay content. Overall, the various analytical methods all showed excellent sealing ability and its relationship with several petrographic properties (cementation, clay content, and fabric alignment) were established.

Growth faults with long histories bound compartments in the storage complex region (Ewing, 1991). Many of the region’s historically-produced oil and gas fields are fault bound with the faults serving as adequate seals for economic concentration of those fluids. Based on recent studies, similar behavior is expected for CO2 (Nicholson, 2012).

The potential for induced seismic activity in the storage complex is considered low. This relates in part to the history of onshore Class I injection wells in the region, which have injected billions of barrels of liquids over decades without notable seismicity. The proposed offshore storage reservoirs are geologically analogous to those reservoirs used for Class I activities. The response of the relatively young stratigraphy to elevated pressure is therefore somewhat tested, but a significant effort was made in the project (White, LLNL) for modeling to constrain this risk.

Examples of prior and ongoing CO2 injection projects in the region include the Frio I and II projects (NETL-funded) east of Houston, and the active CO2-EOR project at the Hastings Field south of Houston (NETL supports GCCC to perform monitoring). Both these settings utilize subsurface formations that are geologically analogous to the proposed offshore stratigraphy, and generally serve to reduce risks of injectivity in the proposed offshore formations.

Secondary storage opportunities are available utilizing the concept of stacked storage. Vertically stacked sandstone bodies are present regionally, providing ample options for utilization, typically using a single injection well recompleted at a different elevation in the stacked sequence. Should challenges arise with the primary reservoir, the ability to backstop a single injection scenario with a variety of alternative reservoirs at the same site is a major advantage of working in the proposed storage complex. Were an alternative site to be needed, many options exist within the storage complex region.



Community Outreach

The Gulf Coast Carbon Center coordinated the CarbonSAFE initiative with key stakeholders in the Houston-Beaumont-Port Arthur region in order to meet the needs of the local community while the project progressed. The GCCC worked with the following groups:

  • Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce
  • T&L Solutions, LLC.
  • GTBR
  • Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
  • Golden Triangle Empowerment Center
  • Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Texas Shrimp Association
  • Port Arthur International Seafarers Association/Center
  • Coastal Fisheries Field Office
  • Coastal Conservation Association

Outreach Events

  • International Offshore Storage workshop in June 2017
  • Carbon Capture and Storage teacher workshop in March 2018
  • Lamar University Legislative tour in April 2018


The following organizations comprised the CCS Coordination Team:

Click here for "RI0283. Geological CO2 Sequestration Atlas of Miocene Strata, Offshore Texas State Waters"


For a flyer on GCCC mission, activities, impact, and goals, please click here.

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas

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