Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership
Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Is CO2?
  2. What Is CO2 Management?
  3. What Is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?
  4. What Is CO2 Sequestration?
  5. Why Sequester CO2?
  6. What Is the PCOR Partnership?
  7. What Is the PCOR Partnership Region?
  8. Who Is in the PCOR Partnership?
  9. What Did the PCOR Partnership Accomplish in Phase I?
  10. What Are the PCOR Partnership Phase II Goals and Objectives?
  11. What Are the Phase II Field Projects?
  12. What Is the Phase III PCOR Partnership Program?
  13. What are the CCS (Geologic Sequestration) Projects in the PCOR Partnership Region?
  14. What Terrestrial Sequestration Are under Way in the PCOR Partnership Region?
  15. Are Landowners Willing to Restore Wetlands for Carbon Sequestration?
  16. What Can I Do to Manage CO2?
  17. How Can I Learn More about CO2 Sequestration?

What Is CO2?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas composed of one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen. CO2 occurs naturally in the atmosphere, is essential to plant life and, as a greenhouse gas, helps create the greenhouse effect that keeps our planet hospitable to life.

We encounter CO2 in the air we breathe, as the bubbles in soft drinks, as a coolant (dry ice), and in fire extinguishers. Humans add to the level of CO2 in the atmosphere through agriculture, burning fossil fuels, and industrial activity. CO2 from human activity is called anthropogenic CO2. Learn more about CO2

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What Is CO2 Management?
The goal of CO2 management is the reduction of the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 management means removing CO2 from the atmosphere or preventing anthropogenic CO2 from entering the atmosphere. CO2 management actions include increasing the efficiency in fossil fuel energy systems, engaging in greater use of renewable and alternative fuels, and using less energy when possible (energy conservation), as well as removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it for the long term (terrestrial sequestration) and/or capturing anthropogenic CO2 before it enters the atmosphere and storing it underground for the long term (geologic CO2 sequestration). The carbon management area deals with the management of a range of greenhouse gases, including methane (CH4: one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen), that contain carbon.

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What Is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method of capturing CO2 before it is released to the atmosphere and then placing the CO2 into long-term storage. Geologic sequestration of CO2 is a major option for long-term CO2 storage. CCS is best suited for use in large stationary facilities, like power plants or factories. Learn more

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What Is CO2 Sequestration?
CO2 sequestration means capturing CO2 and putting it into environmentally sound long-term storage. There are two types of sequestration: direct and indirect.

Direct sequestration involves capturing anthropogenic CO2 at a source before it can be emitted to the atmosphere. The most efficient concept would use specialized equipment to capture anthropogenic CO2 at large stationary sources like factories or power plants and then inject the CO2 into secure storage zones deep underground (geologic sequestration) or into the deep ocean.

Terrestrial sequestration involves removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Terrestrial sequestration uses land management practices that boost the ability of plants to capture CO2 from the atmosphere, regardless of its source, and then store it in plant material or soil for a long period of time. Opportunities for terrestrial sequestration can be found in forests, grasslands, wetlands, and croplands. More on CO2 Sequestration

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Why Sequester CO2?
Greenhouse gases, including CO2, naturally trap a portion of the sun's energy in the Earth's atmosphere, and this maintains the temperatures needed to keep our planet hospitable to life. However, human (anthropogenic) activity, including the use of fossil fuels, adds CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. There is concern that the anthropogenic greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere are causing increased warming and that this warming will affect climate on a global scale. This concern is being addressed by international efforts and by individual countries. The President's Global Climate Change Initiative, issued in the spring of 2003, calls for an 18% reduction in U.S. CO2 intensity by 2012. Conservation, more efficient power systems, renewable energy, and sequestration are all tools to help reduce CO2 intensity. CO2 sequestration - the capture and long-term storage of CO2 - is one of several actions that would help to control anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. More on Carbon Sequestration, Climate Change, and CO2

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What Is the PCOR Partnership?
The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership is a diverse group of over 80 public and private sector stakeholders working together to better understand the technical and economic feasibility of capturing and storing CO2 emissions from stationary sources of CO2 in the central interior of North America. The PCOR Partnership is led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota and is one of seven regional partnerships designated by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) Program. Funding comes from the RCSP program and a broad range of project sponsors.

Phase I activities were completed in September 2005. On June 9, 2005, the EERC was awarded a contract for Phase II, which began in October 2005. Phase II is a 4-year program focused on demonstrating and validating promising CO2 sequestration opportunities in our region. The total value of Phase II is currently over $21.5 million, with two-thirds of that funding coming from DOE and the balance contributed by industry and other nonfederal partners, including partners in Canada. New partners are welcome. About the PCOR Partnership

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What Is the Extent of the PCOR Partnership Region?
The PCOR Partnership region contains portions of nine states and four Canadian provinces within the central interior of North America. PCOR Partnership Region

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Who Is in the PCOR Partnership?
The PCOR Partnership comprises over 80 public and private sector stakeholders that represent experience and expertise in agriculture, forestry, economics, energy exploration and production, geology, engineering, and the environment. Partners provide technical services to the PCOR Partnership by providing data, guidance, and practical experience with direct and indirect sequestration, including value-added projects. Complete PCOR Partner Listing

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What Did the PCOR Partnership Accomplish in Phase I?
Phase I occurred between the fall of 2003 and the fall of 2005. During that period, the Partnership assessed and prioritized the opportunities for sequestration in the PCOR Partnership region and helped to resolve the technical, regulatory, and environmental barriers to the most promising sequestration opportunities. At the same time, the PCOR Partnership informed policy makers and the public regarding CO2 sources, sequestration strategies, and sequestration opportunities. Phase I products include:
  • A comprehensive regional assessment of CO2 sources and terrestrial and geologic sinks (storage sites) for CO2.
  • The development of the PCOR Partnership Decision Support System (DSS, © 2007 EERC Foundation), a geographic information system (GIS)-based database trust providing the PCOR Partnership sponsors with a tool to evaluate CO2 sequestration opportunities in the PCOR Partnership region.
  • Identification, ranking, and action plans for promising sequestration validation projects.
  • Key GIS products for CO2 sources and sinks, infrastructure, and regulatory issues.
  • Recommendations for terrestrial and geologic sequestration monitoring and verification systems.
  • Outreach materials including five fact sheets on key regional sequestration topics, a Web site, and a 30-minute public television documentary entitled "Nature in the Balance - CO2 Sequestration."

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What Are the PCOR Partnership Phase II Goals and Objectives?
The 4-year PCOR Partnership Phase II program is scheduled to run from the fall of 2005 to the fall of 2009. Phase II is focused on the validation of sequestration technologies and the identification of prime locations in the partnership region that can support future full-scale geological and terrestrial sequestration opportunities. Phase II is designed to broker working relationships between industries that generate CO2, industries that can use it for value-added sequestration activities such as enhanced oil recovery and the government agencies that oversee such activities. Phase II partners have a voice in determining the direction of the PCOR Partnership and early access to the results of the program. Participation in Phase II will also provide partners with unique opportunities to develop working relationships with stakeholders that represent a diverse cross section of CO2 producers, end users, and regulators.

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What Are the Phase II Field Projects?
There will be one terrestrial sequestration field trial and three geologic field trials in Phase II. Field projects and their respective key partners include:
  • Injection of acid gas into a depleted oil reservoir in Alberta, Canada, for acid gas disposal, enhanced oil recovery, and carbon sequestration.
  • Injection of CO2 into a deep carbonate reservoir in North Dakota for enhanced oil recovery and carbon sequestration.
  • Injection of CO2 into a lignite coal seam for enhanced methane production and carbon sequestration.
  • Restoration of prairie pothole wetlands for carbon sequestration.


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What Is the Phase III PCOR Partnership Program?
In the fall of 2007, the PCOR Partnership was selected for a 10-year, multimillion dollar Phase III program focused on implementing a commercial-scale geologic carbon sequestration demonstration project in the region.

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What are the CCS (Geologic Sequestration) Projects in the PCOR Partnership Region?
CO2 has been sequestered in the subsurface at the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan since the late 1990s, and the PCOR Partnership is planning geologic sequestration projects in depleted oil reservoirs, unminable coal seams, and a saltwater reservoir layer deep underground.

The Weyburn oil field is the site of an active CO2 flood, a technique of displacing oil by pumping CO2 into oil-bearing formations to improve oil production. Weyburn is also the site of a major international effort, coordinated by the Petroleum Technology Research Centre, located in Regina, Saskatchewan, to assess geologic sequestration practices. The results from Weyburn have demonstrated the site to be safe and secure for sequestration. It is expected that more than 20 million metric tons of CO2 will be successfully sequestered in the Weyburn oil field by 2025.

More on CO2 Sequestration Projects

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What Terrestrial Sequestration Are under Way in the PCOR Partnership Region?
Depending on how humans use the land, soils can trap carbon (CO2 sink) or release carbon (CO2 source). Agricultural practices like no-till and low-till keep more carbon in the soil than conventional practices. Current research activities in the central interior of NOrth America include determining the amount of CO2 that can be sequestered in different settings like forests, grasslands, croplands, or wetlands; developing monitoring practices to determine the amount of carbon staying in place; and determining optimal land management practices for carbon storage in different ecoregions and settings.

More about CO2 Carbon Sequestration Projects

One such setting is the prairie pothole wetlands. Scientific studies suggest that restoration of prairie wetlands has great potential to sequester carbon. Over the next decade, scientists have estimated that restoration of cropland wetlands would result in the sequestration of more than 72 million metric tons of soil organic carbon in the prairie pothole wetland region in the United States. Restored wetlands also provide benefits such as wildlife and fish habitat enhancement, water quality improvement, sediment and chemical filtration, erosion and nutrient transport reduction, floodwater retention, groundwater recharge, biological diversity conservation, and increased opportunities for education, scientific research, and recreation.

More on Prairie Pothole Region

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Are Landowners Willing to Restore Wetlands for Carbon Sequestration?
Prairie potholes have only been recently recognized as an important avenue for carbon sequestration, and as a result, CO2 emitters are only beginning to understand the potential for sequestration offered by wetlands for CO2 emission offsets. However, numerous wetland and grassland habitats on private lands have been restored in the Prairie Pothole Region through programs sponsored by federal, state, and private entities. The most notable restoration programs include the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Bill Conservation Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for the Fish and Wildlife Program, and conservation activities of Ducks Unlimited Canada. Collectively, these programs have enabled the restoration of 2 million hectares of habitats in the U.S. portion of the region. This demonstrates that, given proper incentives, private landowners have been willing to restore wetlands and grasslands.

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What Can I Do to Manage CO2?
Individuals, government agencies, and businesses can take a variety of actions.

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How Can I Learn More about CO2 Sequestration?