Carbon Capture and Storage in the United States

From Global Energy Monitor

Obama and CCS

The Obama administration has requested $300 million in 2011 for the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), the newest part of the Department of Energy (DOE). In 2009 the agency received $400 million in stimulus funds. Officials on March 2, 2010 announced that its second solicitation for alternative energy proposals - which focused on biofuels, carbon capture and storage, and batteries - yielded over 500 concept papers.[1]

Problems with CCS

According to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal of Society of Petroleum Engineers, titled "Sequestering Carbon Dioxide in a Close Underground Volume", the authors argue that past calculations of CCS were widely off, rendering the technology impractical. Writing for Casper, Wyoming's Star-Tribune, report author Prof. Michael Economides explains,

Earlier published reports on the potential for sequestration fail to address the necessity of storing CO2 in a closed system. Our calculations suggest that the volume of liquid or supercritical CO2 to be disposed cannot exceed more than about 1 percent of pore space. This will require from 5 to 20 times more underground reservoir volume than has been envisioned by many, including federal government laboratories, and it renders geologic sequestration of CO2 a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of CO2 emissions.
Injection rates, based on displacement mechanisms from enhanced oil recovery experiences, assuming open aquifer conditions, are totally erroneous because they fail to reconcile the fundamental difference between steady state, where the injection rate is constant, and pseudo-steady state, where the injection rate will undergo exponential decline if the injection pressure exceeds an allowable value.
The implications of our work are profound. They show that models that assume a constant pressure outer boundary for reservoirs intended for CO2 sequestration are missing the critical point that the reservoir pressure will build up under injection at constant rate. Instead of the 1-4 percent of bulk volume storability factor indicated prominently in the literature, which is based on erroneous steady-state modeling, our finding is that CO2 can occupy no more than 1 percent of the pore volume and likely as much as 100 times less.
We related the volume of the reservoir that would be adequate to store CO2 with the need to sustain injectivity. The two are intimately connected. The United States has installed over 800 gigawatts (GW) of CO2 emitting coal and natural gas power plants. In applying this to a commercial power plant of just 500 MW, which by the way produces about 3 million tons per year relentlessly, the findings suggest that for a small number of wells the areal extent of the reservoir would be enormous, the size of a small U.S. state. Conversely, for more moderate size reservoirs, still the size of the U.S.'s largest, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay reservoir, and with moderate permeability there would be a need for hundreds of wells. Neither of these bode well for geological CO2 sequestration and the work clearly suggests that it is not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions.[2]

A research study published by the journal Nature Geoscience in June 2010 reported that storing carbon underwater or in the ground could create many long-term problems. Storing carbon in the ocean would contribute to acidification, stated the report. Additionally, underground storage areas also exhibit multiple issues, such as leakage. Gas would have to be stored for tens of thousands of years to avoid becoming a threat to future generations, a scenario similar to nuclear waste, stated the report.[3]

CCS Legislation

On May 7, 2010 it was announced that a U.S. Senate committee passed a bill that seeks to "encourage innovation and investment in technology to capture and store carbon dioxide."

The bill, S.2744 -- which is titled as the Carbon Dioxide Capture Technology Act of 2009 -- was sponsored by Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on May 6. The bill still needs to be considered by the full Senate and the House.

According to a press release on the bill the "legislation would establish an award system for scientists and researchers who develop technology to remove and permanently store carbon dioxide. It also establishes an advisory board."[4]

Storage capacity in the United States and Canada

On November 17, 2008, the DOE released its second Carbon Sequestration Atlas for the United States and Canada. The Atlas identifies over 3,500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide storage potential in oil and gas reservoirs, coal seams, and saline formations. The document suggests that these geologic formations could provide over 1100 years of CO2 storage.[5]

A study in March 2008 found that the United States will need to drill over 100,000 - and perhaps up to 3 times that number - injection wells to inject enough carbon dioxide and keep total emissions at 2005 levels. The study was based on data from the petroleum industry, which has been injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery for more than 30 years. As a comparison for feasibility, approximately 40,000 oil and gas wells are drilled each year in the U.S. All told, the total cost of such a carbon dioxide sequestration effort could easily top $1.5 trillion per year.[6]

The study concluded:[6]

Whether, when, and how much carbon dioxide sequestration will ever occur on a commercial scale remains in question, and to achieve it will be expensive and problematic. The proposition has yet to be properly addressed in either a real or a practical context.

Dakota Gasification Company

The Dakota Gasification Company's Great Plains Synfuels Plant, a gasification plant near Beulah, North Dakota, produces 200 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) of CO2 at full plant rates. The company began piping the CO2 to Canada for oil field injection in late 2000. In 2004 the company was selling an average of 95 MMSCFD of CO2 for injection. Sales were reported to be 152 MMSCFD in March 2008. [7] Sales of CO2 do not equate to sequestration, because there are various losses. The company filed Form EIA-1605 (Long Form for Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases) with the U.S. Department of Energy, claiming 2,725,000 metric tons of CO2 sequestration from project start-up in late 2000 through the end of 2003. In that form, the company claimed a net sequestration credit of 73%, implying that 27% of the sales were lost due to reasons such as flared CO2, fugitive emissions, and various indirect factors. Not included in the net sequestration credit calculation was increased CO2 releases resulting from the generation of electricity need for compression and pumping.[8]

Basin Electric/Powerspan Post-Combustion Demonstration Project

In March, 2008, Basin Electric Power Cooperative made the following announcement:[9]

Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Powerspan Corp. today announced the selection of Powerspan's carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology, called "ECO2(TM)," for a commercial demonstration at Basin Electric's Antelope Valley Station, a coal-based electrical generation facility located near Beulah, North Dakota. Approximately one million tons of CO2 will be captured annually from the 120 megawatt slipstream project, making this demonstration among the largest in the world.
ECO2 is a post-combustion, regenerative process, which uses an ammonia-based solution to capture CO2 from the flue gas of a power plant and release it in a form that is ready for further compression, safe transportation, and geological storage.
The demonstration will draw the equivalent of a 120 megawatt slipstream and will be designed to capture 90 percent of the incoming CO2. The captured CO2 would then be delivered by pipe to the existing compressor station at Dakota Gasification's adjacent Synfuels Plant and injected into Dakota Gasification's 205-mile pipeline system for delivery to Canada where it will be used in an EOR project.
The ECO2 process is a post-combustion CO2 capture process for conventional power plants that is differentiated from other approaches by its simpler capital equipment design and significantly lower energy consumption. The technology is suitable for retrofit to the existing coal-based, electric generating fleet as well as for new coal-based plants. The CO2 capture takes place after the nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury and fine particulate matter are captured. Once the CO2 is captured, the ammonia-based solution is regenerated to release CO2 and ammonia. The ammonia is recovered and sent back to the scrubbing process, and the CO2 is in a form that is ready for geological storage. Ammonia is not consumed in the scrubbing process, and no separate by-product is created.
Today's announcement is the result of the first competitive solicitation process for a CO2 capture demonstration at a coal-based power plant in the U.S. Six companies responded to the request for proposal. Powerspan's CO2 capture process was selected as the most promising low cost option for commercial deployment and for its ability to best integrate with Basin Electric's operations. The project is scheduled to move forward in 2009. The facility is expected to be operational in 2012.

As of November 2008, the loan to finance the project was pending before the Rural Utilities Service, which is a part of US Department of Agriculture. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said he hoped the loan application would reach his desk before the end of the year, although he could not guarantee the application would be approved by the RUS. He will probably leave his position when the Obama administration takes over in January 2009.[10]

Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration demonstration project

In November 2008, the Department of Energy awarded $66.9 million to the Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership to develop the Department’s seventh large-scale carbon sequestration project. The project will conduct a large-volume test in the Nugget Sandstone formation in Wyoming in an effort to establish the possibility of "safely, permanently and economically" using a geologic formation to store over 2 million tons of carbon dioxide. The DOE is currently estimating the project's cost at over $130 million.[11]

Big Sky plans to drill a CO2 injection well and inject up to one million tons per year of carbon dioxide at a depth of 11,000 feet. The DOE states that similar geologic formations in the region offer the opportunity to store more than 100 years of CO2 emissions from sources in the area. The CO2 for the project will come from Cimarex Energy’s proposed helium and natural gas processing plant at Riley Ridge.[11]

Archer Daniels Midland carbon sequestration project

Archer Daniels Midland Decatur Power Plant is a coal-fired power station at an agricultural processing facility owned and operated by Archer Daniels Midland near Decatur, Illinois. The plant is currently the site of a carbon capture and storage demonstration project. The project aims to drill down to a 600-million-year-old layer of sandstone, where developers hope to bury about 1 million metric tons of CO2. The project is estimated to cost $84 million, with $66.7 million contributed by the Department of Energy. The project has made the most progress of any other federally-sponsored coal sequestration project in the U.S. The drillers have already dug through 5,300 feet and have 2,700 feet remaining before they reach the sandstone layer.[12]

Proposed Projects Featuring Carbon Capture and Storage

CCS Collaboration with China

In November 2009 a joint U.S. and Chinese government media release stated that "the two sides strongly welcomed work in both countries to promote 21st century coal technologies. They agreed to promote cooperation on large-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) demonstration projects and to begin work immediately on the development, deployment, diffusion, and transfer of CCS technology. The two sides welcomed recent agreements between Chinese and U.S. companies, universities, and research institutions to cooperate on CCS and more efficient coal technologies."[13]

Department of Energy Funding

In 2009 the Department of Energy funded $979 million for three coal companies to sequester CO2 emissions from one of their plants:[14]

  • Summit Texas Clean Energy, LLC - Summit Power. The captured CO2 will be used for enhanced oil recovery efforts in West Texas oil fields.

DOE selects NRG Energy for carbon capture project in Texas

In September 2009, NRG announced that it was applying for funding from the Department of Energy to subsidize the cost of installing carbon capture and storage equipment at Parish. The company would not disclose the cost of the equipment. The demonstration project would capture about 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from 60 megawatts of power generation.[15]

In March 2010 it was announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected NRG to receive $154 million, which includes funcing from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to construct a "post-combustion carbon capture demonstration unit" outside of Houston at the company's Parish Generating Station. The project is scheduled to go online in 2013 and will be one of the first of its kind.[16]

SCS Energy's PurGen One Plant

Clean Coal and the PurGen Project.

SCS Energy (SCS) of Concord, Mass. has proposed constructing PurGen One, a 750-megawatt (MW) IGCC / coal-to-fertilizer plant on a contaminated industrial site on the Arthur Kill waterway in Linden, N.J. The plant would gasify coal and burn the gas to generate electricity when power prices are high, or make fertilizer when power prices are low. SCS plans to use carbon capture and sequestration technology to pump 90% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the plant through a 100-mile-long pipeline to a point 70 miles offshore from Atlantic City, N.J., where it will be pumped into a sandstone formation 1.5 miles beneath the floor of the ocean. SCS Energy hopes the coal plant, with carbon sequestration, will be fully operational by 2016.

SCS Energy has filed a 362-page application for an air permit for PurGen from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection passed a resolution Nov. 4, 2009 opposing construction of the PurGen plant in Linden.

On December 16, 2009, Emily Rochon of Greenpeace International spoke against the PurGen plant in Linden and a video of her talk is available.

According to Forbes magazine Nov. 30, 2009, the PurGen plant would bury 14.5 million tons of liquefied CO2 beneath the ocean each year. At that rate, if the power plant ran for 50 years, it would bury a total of 725 million tons of CO2.

Articles and Resources


  1. ""Eli Kintisch, Science Magazine, March 2, 2010
  2. "CO2 sequestration isn't practical" Michael Economides, Casper Star-Tribune, February 20, 2010.
  3. "'Carbon storage' faces leak dilemma - study" AFP, June 27, 2010.
  4. "Wyoming senator's clean coal bill passes panel" Bob Moen,, May 7, 2010.
  5. 2008 Carbon Sequestration Atlas II of the United States and Canada, NETL, November 17, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Carbon Sequestration: Injecting Realities," Energy Tribune, March 19, 2008.
  7. "CO2 Recovery and Transportation at Dakota Gasification Company," Slide Presentation by Bob Fagerstrom, Dakota Gasification Company, Great Plains Synfuels Plant, March 3, 2008 (PDF file)
  8. Merian Perry and Dean Eliason, "CO2 Recovery and Sequestration at Dakota Gasification Company," October 2004, page 10.
  9. "Basin Electric Selects Powerspan's ECO2 Carbon Capture Process for Commercial Demonstration Project" The Energy Blog, 3/13/08
  10. "Federal loan pending for carbon capture project," November 10, 2008.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "DOE Completes Large-Scale Carbon Sequestration Project Awards," DOE press release, November 17, 2008.
  12. "Archer Daniels Midland project aims to bury carbon dioxide," LA Times, April 7, 2009.
  13. "U.S.-China Joint Statement Beijing, China", The White House Office of the Press Secretary, November 17, 2009.
  14. "Clean Air Task Force Applauds US DOE for Low Carbon Coal Project Grants" Business Wire, December 5, 2009
  15. Elizabeth Souder, "NRG applies to Department of Energy for funding of clean coal equipment," Dallas Morning News, September 2, 2009.
  16. "DOE picks NRG for carbon capture demonstration project in Texas" Electric Light & Power, March 30, 2010.

Related articles

External resources

Interactive Database Mapping of CCS Projects

Background Notes by Environmental NGOs Critical of CCS

U.S. Government agency reports on CCS

Reports by Environmental groups/think tanks promoting CCS

External Articles