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Environment & Energy Report

BLM Considers 2,000-Mile CO2 Pipeline Proposal, Sage-Grouse Impact

Nov. 14, 2019, 7:29 PM

The Bureau of Land Management will soon begin an environmental review of a plan to build 2,000 miles of pipelines to carry carbon dioxide across federal land in Wyoming, potentially damaging greater sage-grouse habitat.

The BLM plans to simultaneously update nine federal land management plans in Wyoming to accommodate the pipelines, according to a notice scheduled to be published Nov. 15 in the Federal Register.

The Wyoming Pipeline Corridor Initiative is a state-proposed project that would provide rights of way up to 300 feet wide for pipelines that would supply oil fields with carbon dioxide to boost crude oil production. The pipelines would be built across federal land managed by the BLM.

The BLM’s environmental review of the proposal will consider how the pipeline corridors will affect the greater sage-grouse, air quality, big game and other environmental issues.

Reviving Old Oil Fields

The state expects the pipelines to help oil companies produce up to 1.8 billion barrels of oil in Wyoming. Wyoming is the nation’s eighth largest oil producer. About 88 million barrels of crude oil were produced there in 2018.

The project potentially could sequester up to 20 trillion cubic feet of carbon dioxide. The backers aren’t saying specifically what the source of the carbon dioxide would be.

A 2016 Elk Petroleum presentation shows that carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery could come from several natural underground reservoirs of carbon dioxide found across Wyoming. Ethanol refineries in the Midwest are also potential carbon dioxide sources.

Details of the project weren’t immediately available. Neither the BLM nor the Wyoming Pipeline Authority immediately responded to requests for comment Nov. 14.

Enhanced oil recovery, which injects carbon dioxide deep underground, may be a possible use for carbon dioxide captured to address climate change, potentially reducing the climate impact of crude oil.

Bob King, a member of the Wyoming Enhanced Oil Recovery Commission, said Nov. 14 that enhanced oil recovery is used in some of the state’s oldest oil fields.

Companies can inject carbon dioxide into wells that have produced all the oil possible using other methods, he said.

“If you can come up with an economical method of recovering a portion of what’s left, then it increases your ultimate recovery,” King said.

Sage-Grouse At Risk

Conservationists worry the pipelines will further fragment greater sage-grouse habitat and spread wildfire-prone invasive grasses and other species.

“Pipeline corridors are typically bulldozed to a width of several hundred feet,” said Erik Molvar, Laramie, Wyo.-based executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, a group advocating for restoration of sage-grouse habitat.

“These pipelines not only cause the direct loss and fragmentation of sagebrush habitat, they can also become hubs of weed invasion into surrounding, undisturbed habitats,” Molvar said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bobby Magill at bmagill@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergenvironment.com

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