Department of Chemistry



Lee Spangler Montana State Univ - CO2 Project

MSU moves forward with U.S. Department of Energy backed carbon dioxide storage project in northern Montana

July 26, 2011 – from MSU News Service

Schematic illustration of carbon capture and storage at Kevin Dome in Montana. Courtesy Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership. 

Pitt Chemistry alumnus, Lee Spangler (PhD 1985) (, is the Partnership Director for a collaboration between Montana State University and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy - National Energy Technology Laboratory. The $67 million, eight-year project will involve permitting, injecting and monitoring one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into deep porous rock formations in northern Montana.

The overall goal of the project is to demonstrate that CO2 can be stored safely and viably in regional geologic formations. It will be carried out by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership at MSU. Carbon storage, also known as carbon sequestration, is the capture and storage of CO2 gas that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon storage is seen as one possible strategy to help stabilize global CO2 emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change. 

The project site (in northern Toole County near the communities of Shelby, Kevin and Sunburst, MT) will be located at Kevin Dome (pronounced kee-vin), a geologic feature that extends 700 square miles underground and has trapped naturally occurring carbon dioxide (CO2) for millions of years. There are barrier rock layers above the CO2 that prevent gas or other liquids from migrating to the surface.   The CO2 does not take up all of the space and therefore the dome has potential to store additional CO2. The partnership will inject CO2 into a rock layer that has not previously had CO2. This will allow the scientists to study rocks that have been previously exposed to CO2 and rocks that have not had previous CO2 exposure. 

"Since we are getting the CO2 from a naturally occurring source, we can learn from nature how the CO2 has been stored safely in rock formations for millions of years," said Dr. Spangler. "This grant will enable us to learn about the transportation, injection and monitoring of CO2 in an engineered system."

Partnership scientists and engineers will share new technology and research in sustainable energy with students and teachers. Throughout the project, the partnership plans to create learning opportunities and experiences for local Toole County students and MSU students. 

This project is the third phase of the Big Sky Partnership. The first phase of the program identified and characterized the carbon sources and sinks in the region and the second phase has focused on determining the best approaches for storing CO2 in both geologic and terrestrial systems.

Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP)

Led by Montana State University, the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) is one of seven partnerships involved in the US Department of Energy's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership program. The BSCSP relies on existing technologies from the fields of engineering, geology, chemistry, biology, geographic information systems and economics to develop novel approaches for both geologic and terrestrial carbon storage in our region. The BSCSP region encompasses Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, eastern Washington and Oregon. Its membership includes universities, national laboratories, private companies, state agencies and Native American tribes. More information can be found at here