U.S Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell today announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the first three large-scale carbon sequestration projects in the United States and the largest single set in the world to date. DOE plans to invest $197 million over ten years, subject to annual appropriations from Congress, for the projects, whose estimated value including partnership cost share is $318 million.
The three projects - Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction Partnership; Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership; and Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration - will conduct large volume tests for the storage of one million or more tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in deep saline reservoirs. These projects will double the number of large-volume carbon storage demonstrations in operation worldwide.
The formations to be tested during this third phase of the regional partnerships program are recognized as the most promising of the geologic basins in the United States. Collectively, these formations have the potential to store more than one hundred years of CO2 emissions from all major point sources in North America.
The projects will demonstrate the entire CO2 injection process - pre-injection characterization, injection process monitoring, and post-injection monitoring - at large volumes to determine the ability of different geologic settings to permanently store CO2.
Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership - The Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, will conduct geologic CO2 storage projects in the Alberta and Williston Basins. The Williston Basin project in North Dakota will couple enhanced oil recovery and CO2 storage in a deep carbonate formation that is also a major saline formation. The CO2 for this project will come from a post-combustion capture facility located at a coal-fired power plant in the region. A second test will be conducted in northwestern Alberta, Canada, and will demonstrate the co-sequestration of CO2 and hydrogen sulfide from a large gas-processing plant into a deep saline formation. This will provide data about how hydrogen sulfide affects the sequestration process.
Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership - This partnership, led by Southern States Energy Board, will demonstrate CO2 storage in the lower Tuscaloosa Formation Massive Sand Unit. This geologic formation stretches from Texas to Florida and has the potential to store more than 200 years of CO2 emissions from major point sources in the region. Injection of several million tons of CO2 from a natural deposit is expected to begin in late 2008. The project will then conduct a second injection into the formation using CO2 captured from a coal-fired power plant in the region.
Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration - Coordinated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration will inject several million tons of CO2 into the Jurassic-age Entrada Sandstone Formation in the southwestern United States. The Entrada formation stretches from Colorado to Wyoming and is a significant storage reservoir in the region.
Over the first 12 to 24 months of these projects, researchers and industry partners will characterize the injection sites and then complete the modeling, monitoring, and infrastructure improvements needed before CO2 can be injected. These efforts will establish a baseline for future monitoring after CO2 injection begins. Each project will then inject a large volume of CO2 into a regionally significant storage formation. After injection, researchers will monitor and model the CO2 to determine the effectiveness of the storage reservoir.
In a related news item, EPA is initiating work to develop regulations (no details available yet) to ensure consistency in permitting commercial scale geologic sequestration projects. The Agency plans to propose regulations in the summer of 2008. Information about the rule-making process will be posted to this site as it becomes available.
I wonder if this is the most effective way to advance the technology of sequestration. It probably is desirable to do this work and will result in a better understating of how CCS works, however it is a very academic way to do the work and takes quite a bit of time. Two of the sources are from coal fired power plants, as highlighted above, and may provide the most useful information in a timely manner. The information may not come in time to influence CCS at the FutureGen plant (2013) or the Mesabi project, scheduled for completion in 2012. While realistically these dates will slip these two plants may be the first two plants built with CCS a major consideration in their design. CCS is definitely planned for FutureGen, but is still in the discussion stage for Mesabi. Several utilities are also planning on building IGCC plant because of the supposed lower cost for construction, although proponents of supercritical pulverized coal plants are now making the same claims.
The EPA regulations regarding sequestration are an essential step in allowing CCS to go foreword although the scope of the proposed regulations does not sound like it will resolve the issue. Several coal fired plants, including this one, have been canceled because of uncertainty about future regulations.
I must reiterate and expand my statement about the role of nuclear and coal power in meeting our future electric needs. I see no way, in the near future, that our electrical needs can be met without the use of coal-fired power plants and nuclear power plants. Regulations must be made to ensure that these plants are as safe as possible and CCS be required at the earliest possible date. At the present time renewable energy, with the exception of geothermal and hydro power, cannot meet a significant portion of our needs within the useful lifetime of the next generation of nuclear and coal-powered plants. If it was possible I would place a moratorium on building coal plants without CCS.
Renewable energy is much more difficult to forecast. Hydro-power is more or less stagnate in the U.S., but still offers a large potential in the rest of the world. Geothermal should be fairly easy to forecast, just digging out the numbers, I believe the potential is for about 5% of total power. Wind power is competitive with other sources of power in some regions of the world, in other locations it still needs incentives. The industry is thriving. I saw one recent report that it should achieve parity in 3-5 years. It is estimated by some that it has a potential of more than 20% of all electrical needs and most of that may be achievable by 2030. Thermal solar is starting to take off, but still needs subsidies. It is most suitable for relatively large installations, perhaps above 50 MW. Costs continue to decrease. A growth rate of 35% per year is anticipated for the next 5-10 years is anticipated. I think this will be limited when PV solar becomes competitive. PV solar is really not competitive yet for large installations, but demand still outstrips supply capabilities. Costs are expected to drop significantly in the next 3 to 5 years as silicon supplies improve and thin film technologies are refined. A 35% growth rate for the foreseeable future is my anticipation. Wave power will become a factor at some time, but it is still too early to guess when and how much of a factor it will be.
Including hydro-power and geothermal I can see the day when renewables can produce 50-70% of our electricity, but we still have close to 10 years to go before the PV solar industry, which I believe will be the largest segment, can make a really significant impact. By 2030, if not sooner, renewables should be able to meet any incremental needs for electric power. This date will vary by regions of the world to some extent as solar power is not suitable everywhere.
Industry is starting to make significant improvements in efficient use of energy. The private sector really does not want to and probably will not implement serious efficiency efforts, in the U.S. unless power becomes very, very expensive, either through natural forces of increasing costs or taxation which would probably resisted too much to be implemented or unless it became a serious factor in national security, which I don't see happening. Requiring more efficient lighting for everyone and requireing higher insulation standards on new homes are reasonable approaches that should be pursued.
Last but not least, economical energy storage technologies will be required to allow solar and wind to achieve their potential because of their intermittent nature. It appears, at this time, that these technologies can be best applied to thermal solar and wind. As technologies such as flow batteries and sodium-sulphur batteries (NaS) prove economical they should be suitable for PV solar. Without energy storage wind and solar together may not be able to exceed 30% because of problems involved in integrating them into the grid. PV solar has an advantage in that it is more suited to distributed generation, but that is usually not in large quantities.