WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Department of Energy is preparing to commission this year America's first large-scale demonstrations of CO2 capture and deep geologic storage in fulfillment of a commitment announced last October to Phase III of the Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnerships Program. The projects could lead to a tripling of the world's present large-scale demonstrations.
Proposals for the Phase III demonstrations, part of the President's Climate Change Technology Initiative, include the world's earliest examination of on-shore geologic storage in deep saline reservoirs, trail-blazing efforts in large-scale carbon dioxide capture in coal-based power generation and the first commercial-scale linking of monitored storage with enhanced oil recovery in the United States.
The partnerships have proposed large-scale projects suited to their specific regions, some to capture and store between one and two million tons of CO2 a year. Project negotiations are underway now and specific awards will be announced this fall on a date to be determined later.
Activities in support of initiating Phase III are schedule to begin in October, and early identification of projects will allow planning for the 10-year phase to move forward. Phase I identified about 3,600 gigatons of potential geologic storage across the United States, and Canada. It also found 4,300 power-plant and other large industrial sources of carbon dioxide across the U.S. and Canada with annual emissions approaching 4 gigatons. No source is more than 300 miles from a storage formation. The most promising of those formations are now undergoing Phase II field tests in preparation for large-scale testing.
The range of Phase III proposals would advance the technologies of capture and storage, increase knowledge about the various kinds of geologic formations and serve to codify the methods, best practices and protocols necessary to initiate wider application of safe, secure and permanent storage of CO2 throughout the economy.
Capture proposals include the first large-scale applications to coal-based power plants plus natural gas processing plants and ethanol production plants. Storage proposals include the first demonstration of using a a depleted U.S. oil field for sequestration and the world's first large-scale, on-shore storage in deep saline formations.
Proposed storage depths range from 3,000 to 10,000 feet, or from more than half-a-mile up to almost two miles. And all formations, or sinks, are covered by high-integrity cap rock to ensure the security of long-term storage. Phase I found up to 83 gigatons of storage capacity in oil and gas fields, 184 gigatons in unmineable coal seams and 3,374 gigatons in deep saline geologic formations.
Each proposed demonstration would test a specific regional geology, through a full project cycle from site characterization to actual injection and post-closure monitoring for security of storage. Important steps will include permitting; satisfying all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act; development and testing of injection wells; development of CO2 transportation infrastructure; actual CO2 injection; monitoring behavior in storage; site closure; and post-closure monitoring of CO2.
Phase III sites also would become candidates for continued or subsequent use in CO2 storage to accommodate capture from either existing large-point sources or from new plants.
Joint ventures of the public and private sectors, the seven Regional Partnerships span 41 states and four Canadian provinces. They cover most of North America and are grouped by geologic regions to identify ways and means most suited to use in a given region. And they marshal the resources of almost 400 participants whose number includes many major electric-power producers, oil and gas producers, colleges and universities, state and federal government agencies, national laboratories, other institutions and public interest groups. Participating U.S. states produce 97 percent of the country's industrial CO2 and contain virtually all of its geologic storage candidate sites.
At present the world has three large-scale demonstrations of capture and storage in operation: the Weyburn Project in Canada; Norway's Sleipner Project under the North Sea; and the In Salah Project in Algeria. Weyburn uses CO2 captured in coal gasification in North Dakota for enhanced oil recovery. Sleipner stores CO2 in an off-shore saline formation. And In Salah stores CO2 in a natural gas field.