If carbon dioxide were a valuable commodity instead of a waste product, there would be a lot more incentive to capture it.
It turns out some oil producers already find carbon dioxide so useful, they’re willing to pay for it. In fact, they pay upwards of $30 per ton of CO2, which they then inject underground to coax oil from declining wells.
U.S. oil producers have been practicing carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) for four decades. Historically, they’ve relied mostly on CO2 from naturally occurring underground reservoirs. A better idea is to use man-made carbon emissions that would otherwise go into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
With all the fuss around the EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide standard for new power plants, you would be forgiven for missing the following line: “EPA projects that this proposed rule will result in negligible CO2 emission changes, quantified benefits, and costs by 2022.” That’s right, the standard will likely have little to no effect before the date by which EPA will be required by law to revise it.
Why? As I recently told the National Journal, because the most credible projections have natural gas so inexpensive for the next several years that very few power companies are planning to build new coal plants – compared with the 150 natural gas power plants in the works. Pulling the proposed standard wouldn’t change that reality. In fact, the one coal plant being built today includes carbon capture and storage (CCS), and is expected to meet the tough carbon standard EPA has proposed. A handful of additional coal plants with CCS may move forward in the next several years, as well.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Two out of three respondents in a new University of Texas poll said energy issues are important to them. But the harsh rhetoric of campaign season makes it seem like politicians can never agree on important policies needed to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy while also protecting the environment.
Well they can, and they did. Right now in Washington, D.C., we have a bipartisan bill that would reduce carbon emissions and develop domestic energy resources.
I spent the last few days at the eleventh annual Carbon Capture Utilization & Sequestration Conference (CCUS) in Pittsburgh.
For its first 10 years, it was the CCS conference, focused primarily on advancing efforts to capture and permanently sequester carbon emissions underground. This nascent technology is absolutely critical if we are going to continue burning fossil fuels and have any hope of averting dangerous climate change.
This year the conference organizers added “Utilization” to the title. This addition reflects a new reality: in the absence of strong climate policy, the key driver of CCS innovation is the utilization of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR). This is a little-known technique in which CO2 (usually drawn from naturally occurring underground reservoirs) is injected into declining oil fields to boost their output. It now accounts for about 6 percent of domestic U.S. oil production.
Bloomberg editors endorse NEORI's production tax credit recommendations
Few policy options can be a win-win for both political parties, as well as industry, environmental advocates, and labor. Similarly, increasing oil production and decreasing carbon emissions are thought of as conflicting goals. Yet, a solution may be on the horizon. On February 28, the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative (NEORI) released its recommendations for advancing enhanced oil recovery with carbon dioxide (CO2-EOR). NEORI is a broad coalition of industry, state officials, labor, and environmental advocates.
While NEORI participants might not agree on many energy and environmental issues, each participant recognizes the vast potential of CO2-EOR and worked toward producing a set of policy recommendations for its expansion. CO2-EOR already produces 6 percent of U.S. oil, and it could potentially double or triple existing U.S. oil reserves. In comparison to other options, CO2-EOR offers an extraordinarily large potential expansion of domestic oil production, while also advancing an important environmental technology.
Greenhouse Gas Accounting Framework for Carbon Capture and Storage Projects
Meeting the global challenge to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and avoid dangerous climate impacts requires deploying a portfolio of emission reduction technologies.
We must both commit to broad and deep efficiencies in the way our societies’ consume energy and to significant increases in power supplies from low carbon energy sources. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the scale of the challenge to reduce global emissions is massive, and that it will take decades for new and advanced low and zero-emissions technologies to sufficiently mature and dominate the world’s primary energy supply.
Because the use of fossil fuels – including coal – will continue to maintain a central role in powering the global economy for at least the next several decades, the portfolio of solutions to achieve the necessary GHG emissions reductions must include carbon capture and storage (CCS).
CCS refers to a suite of technologies that, when effectively combined, prevent carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere. The process involves capturing and compressing CO2 from power plants and other industrial facilities, transporting it to suitable storage sites, and injecting it into geologic formations for secure and permanent sequestration.
Geologic storage of CO2 emissions currently represents the only option to substantially address the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants and large industrial facilities.
The Greenhouse Gas Accounting Framework for Carbon Capture and Storage Projects – CCS Accounting Framework – provides methods to calculate emissions reductions associated with capturing, transporting, and safely and permanently storing anthropogenic CO2 in geologic formations. It aims for consistency with the principles and procedures from ISO 14064-2:2006. Greenhouse gases – Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements, which represents best practice guidance for the quantification of project-based GHG emission reductions.
Ultimately, the objective of the CCS Accounting Framework is to inform and facilitate the development of a common platform to account for CO2 emissions reductions due to capturing and geologically storing CO2. It also contributes to the public discussion about the viability of CCS to serve as a feasible CO2 mitigation solution.
The emissions accounting procedures in the CCS Accounting Framework apply to multiple CO2 source types, including electric power plants – equipped with pre-combustion, post-combustion, or oxy-fired technologies – and industrial facilities (for example, natural gas production, fertilizer manufacturing, and ethanol production). For CO2 transport, the calculation methodology in this document applies only to pipelines because while other methods of transport, (e.g., truck transport) are possible, they are typically not considered viable options for large-scale CCS endeavors. With respect to the geological storage of CO2, the CCS Accounting Framework applies to saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas fields, and enhanced oil and gas recovery sites.
The CCS Accounting Framework provides a comprehensive set of GHG accounting procedures within a single methodology. The quantification approach includes equations to calculate emissions reductions by comparing baseline emissions to project emissions – the difference between the two represents the GHG reductions due to capturing and sequestering CO2, which would have otherwise entered the atmosphere.
GHG reductions from CCS project = Baseline emissions - Project emissions
Baseline emissions represent the GHG emissions that would have entered the atmosphere if not for the CCS project.
Project emissions are actual GHG emissions from CO2 capture sites, transport pipelines, and storage sites.
The quantification approach to determine baseline emissions presents two baseline options: 1) “Projection-based” and 2) “Standards-based.” In both cases, the calculation method uses data from the actual CCS project to derive baseline emissions.
Determining project emissions involves measuring CO2 captured and stored by the project and deducting CO2 emitted during capture, compression, transport, injection, and storage (and recycling of CO2 if applicable). The procedure to determine project emissions also accounts for GHG emissions from energy inputs required to operate CO2 capture, compression, transport, injection and storage equipment. Energy inputs include “direct emissions” from fossil fuel use (Scope 1 emissions) and, in case required by a program authority, “indirect emissions” from purchased and consumed electricity, steam, and heat (Scope 2 emissions).
CCS project monitoring covers large above ground industrial complexes and expansive subterranean geologic formations. In terms of emissions accounting, monitoring CO2 capture and transport involves well known technologies and practices, established over many years for compliance with federal and state permitting programs. Therefore, the monitoring program would follow generally accepted methods and should correspond with GHG monitoring requirements associated with the relevant subparts of EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) and other state-level programs.
On the other hand, monitoring geologic storage sites for the purpose of verifying the safe and permanent sequestration CO2 from the atmosphere is a relatively recent activity that may involve new techniques and technologies. While there exists no standard method or generally accepted approach to monitor CO2 storage in deep rock formations, project developers will benefit from monitoring practices deployed over the past 35 years in CO2 enhanced oil and gas recovery operations. Thus, the CCS Accounting Framework does not prescribe an approach to monitor CO2 sequestration, as geologic storage sites will vary from site to site and demand unique, fit-for-purpose monitoring plans. This approach is consistent with the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) procedures for geologic sequestration from subpart RR to EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which overlays the monitoring requirements associated with the Underground Injection Control Program.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend as an observer the launch of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, facilitated by the Center and the Great Plains Institute. In the short time since the launch, the EOR Initiative has generated notable
Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) works by injecting CO2 into existing oil fields to increase oil production. It is not a new concept. In fact, around 5 percent, or 272,000 barrels per day, of all domestic oil produced comes from oil recovered using this technique, which was first deployed in West Texas in 1972. Decades of monitoring CO2-EOR sites have shown that in properly managed operations the majority of CO2 is retained in the EOR operation and not released to the atmosphere. One of the initiative’s goals is to better understand the role of CO2-EOR for carbon storage as this industry grows to produce more than 1 million barrels per day, or around 17 percent of domestic oil supply in 2030.
July 12, 2011
Members of Congress Support New National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative
Industry, State, NGO Leaders to Develop Recommendations to Improve U.S. Energy Security
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Industry, government and organizational leaders gathered in Washington, DC, today to launch a national enhanced oil recovery initiative aimed at increasing the supply of domestic oil produced through enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide (CO2-EOR).
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), and Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX) were on hand to help kick off the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative (EOR Initiative). Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) offered written statements in support of the initiative.
The EOR Initiative includes executives from oil and gas, electric power, ethanol, pipeline and other industry sectors; state officials; technical experts; and environmental advocates. The group will develop recommendations for federal and state policymakers on how to ramp up CO2-EOR to improve U.S. energy security, create economic opportunities, support high-paying jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The slate of recommendations is expected to be released in early 2012.
“We know where the oil is, we just need the CO2 to help produce it,” said Robert Mannes, President and CEO of Michigan-based Core Energy, LLC. “We are the only company engaged in commercial CO2-EOR in the Great Lakes Region, and we have a limited amount of CO2. With additional supplies of sufficient volumes of CO2 we could produce a significant amount of oil, providing much needed jobs and revenue to local economies.”
The EOR Initiative will marshal support from diverse constituencies for accelerated nationwide expansion of CO2-EOR projects. Commercially proven, safe, and environmentally sound, CO2-EOR stands out as a compelling and largely unheralded example of American private sector technological innovation that can support a wide range of urgent national priorities.
“Carbon capture and sequestration technology combined with enhanced oil recovery addresses our growing demand for energy, the need for sound environmental policy, and provides the kind of economic and energy security that can only come from increased domestic production,” said Texas State Rep. Myra Crownover. “I look forward to working with the other members of this initiative on improving and expanding opportunities for EOR production throughout the United States.”
Reasonable policies to advance CO2-EOR could produce significant amounts of new American oil and advance the development of infrastructure needed for long-term carbon capture and storage. An estimated 35-50 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil could be produced in the United States using currently available CO2-EOR technologies and practices, or potentially more than twice the country’s proved reserves.
“The fiscal struggles facing federal and state governments combined with a challenging political climate demand new ideas for U.S. energy policy,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “The diverse interests represented in this group offer a unique opportunity to secure broad support for sensible policies that increase domestic oil supply and limit emissions – a win for our nation’s economy, security, and the climate.”
In CO2-EOR, carbon dioxide is injected into oil wells to help draw more oil to the surface, while the carbon dioxide remains underground in deep geologic formations. Expanding CO2-EOR will increase domestic production from already developed oil fields, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating economic opportunities.
“EOR has the potential to bring Americans together around a common agenda of energy security, job creation, and environmental stewardship, and overcome the energy policy gridlock that’s putting our nation at risk,” said Brad Crabtree, Policy Director at the Great Plains Institute.
The EOR Initiative is facilitated by the Great Plains Institute and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Financial support for the EOR Initiative is provided by the Joyce Foundation, the Edgerton Foundation and the Energy Foundation. Additional funding is being sought from foundations, industry, and other private-sector sources.
- Judi Greenwald of the Pew Center and Bob Mannes of Core Energy discuss the EOR Initiative on E&E TV.
- Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) issue press releases on the EOR Initiative.
Statements from Members of Congress in support of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative
In addition to remarks delivered today by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), and Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX) at the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative kick-off event in Washington, DC, the following statements of support were issued by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN).
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)
“Wyoming has been a leader in the field of enhanced oil recovery (EOR). It’s a valuable part of America’s energy future. I congratulate the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative for its important step forward in this area. Increasing EOR production and advancing technology innovation will help grow our economy in an environmentally responsible way. The good news is that EOR is viable without heavy subsidies or Washington mandates. I look forward to reviewing the Initiative’s work.”
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)
“Enhanced oil recovery is a win for fiscal responsibility, a win for energy security, and a win for environmental stewardship. I commend members of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative for taking up this opportunity and look forward to reviewing their recommendations. Addiction to foreign oil imperils United States’ national security and makes our economy more vulnerable to conflict, terrorist activity, and natural disasters far outside the United States. My Practical Energy Plan would propel about 1.8 million barrels of oil per day by enabling a truly national infrastructure to connect oil resources with the CO2 necessary to harvest it, including from sources in Indiana, and generate substantial taxpayer returns.”
More information on Senator Lugar’s plan is available at www.lugar.senate.gov/energy.
The first two weeks of August saw two big news items from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) related to carbon capture and storage (or CCS, for an overview of CCS see the our Climate TechBook CCS brief). First, on August 5, DOE announced its plans for FutureGen 2.0. One week later, President Obama’s Interagency Task Force on CCS delivered its final report and recommendations regarding overcoming “the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years, with a goal of bringing five to ten commercial demonstration projects online by 2016” (see the separate post regarding the task force’s report).
Why is this FutureGen announcement from DOE important? CCS is anticipated to be a key technology for achieving large reductions in U.S. and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (for example, see the recent projection from the International Energy Agency that CCS could provide nearly one fifth of all global GHG emission reductions by mid-century). Initial commercial-scale CCS demonstration projects are a critical step in advancing CCS technology; these projects provide valuable experience and confidence in “scaling-up” CCS technologies and technology improvements and cost reductions from “learning by doing.” The aforementioned report from the Interagency Task Force on CCS notes that FutureGen is one of ten planned CCS demonstration projects supported by DOE (see Table V-2 of the task force’s report for the list of seven power-sector and three industrial CCS projects).
The FutureGen project has had a somewhat tumultuous history. In 2003, DOE announced its plan to work with an industry consortium on the FutureGen plant to demonstrate commercial-scale integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology coupled with (pre-combustion) CCS at a single new coal-fueled power plant (with DOE covering most of the project’s costs). In 2007, the industrial consortium selected a site in Mattoon, IL, for the FutureGen power plant. In 2008, though, DOE abandoned the idea citing the escalating cost estimates for the FutureGen project and decided instead to pursue cost-sharing agreements with project developers to support multiple CCS demonstration projects (this time with DOE covering a smaller fraction of project costs). DOE received only a small number of applications for this restructured FutureGen approach, and this change of plans came in for some criticism from the Government Accountability Office (the GAO report also provides a helpful overview and history of what might now be referred to as “FutureGen 1.0”).
In 2009, the Obama Administration revived plans for a single FutureGen plant and restarted work with the industrial consortium on preliminary design and other activities, promising a decision in 2010 on whether to move forward with the project. That decision came on August 5 and included another shift in DOE’s plans for the FutureGen project (now dubbed “FutureGen 2.0”). Energy Secretary Chu announced the awarding of $1 billion in Recovery Act funding for the repowering of an existing power plant in Meredosia, IL, as a coal-fueled power plant using oxy-combustion and CCS. With “FutureGen 2.0,” DOE decided to change from building a new plant to repowering an existing one and chose a different technology (oxy-combustion with CCS rather than IGCC with CCS).
When subsidizing initial CCS demonstration projects, policymakers should support a variety of relevant technologies and configurations. With respect to applying CCS technology to coal-fueled electricity generation, there are factors that are expected to make certain variants of CCS technology more appropriate for certain circumstances. These factors include the application of CCS with: new plants vs. retrofitting/repowering existing plants; different coal types; and various geologic formations for CO2 storage. Importantly, there are three types of CO2 capture technology—pre-combustion, post-combustion, and oxy-combustion—with the latter two appropriate for use at existing coal-fueled power plants (see our Climate TechBook CCS brief for details).
With its new approach for “FutureGen 2.0” DOE has focused on large-scale demonstration of oxy-combustion. Of the ten CCS demonstration projects supported by DOE, FutureGen will be the only one to use the oxy-combustion technology. Of the 34 large-scale power plant CCS projects worldwide tracked by MIT, only four (counting FutureGen) use or plan to use oxy-combustion, and FutureGen will be the only such oxy-combustion project in the United States. Given the greater focus so far given to the two other alternative CCS approaches, oxy-combustion is likely the CCS technology that can most benefit from the FutureGen large-scale demonstration project.
With its new approach for “FutureGen 2.0,” DOE is taking an important step in demonstrating a portfolio of different CCS technologies. Such demonstrations, along with other supportive government RD&D policies, provide a critical “push” for low-carbon technologies. Long-term policy certainty (such as from a GHG cap-and-trade program) for the private sector regarding future GHG emission reduction requirements can provide the necessary technology “pull” to guide private investments in widespread deployment of CCS and other low-carbon technologies.
Steve Caldwell is a Technology and Policy Fellow
Last week, the Obama Administration’s Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) released its final report and recommendations. President Obama created the task force, co-chaired by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and involving 14 executive departments and federal agencies, in February. The President’s directive charged the task force with delivering “a proposed plan to overcome the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years, with a goal of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.”