Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CO2 Injection Started at Mountaineer Plant across Ohio River

September 22, 2009

Refitted to Bury Emissions, Plant Draws Attention

NEW HAVEN, W.Va. — Poking out of the ground near the smokestacks of the Mountaineer power plant here are two wells that look much like those that draw natural gas to the surface. But these are about to do something new: inject a power plant’s carbon dioxide into the earth.

A behemoth built in 1980, long before global warming stirred broad concern, Mountaineer is poised to become the world’s first coal-fired power plant to capture and bury some of the carbon dioxide it churns out. The hope is that the gas will stay deep underground for millenniums rather than entering the atmosphere as a heat-trapping pollutant.

The experiment, which the company says could begin in the next few days, is riveting the world’s coal-fired electricity sector, which is under growing pressure to develop technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. Visitors from as far as China and India, which are struggling with their own coal-related pollution, have been trooping through the plant.

The United States still depends on coal-fired plants, many of them built decades ago, to meet half of its electricity needs. Some industry experts argue that retrofitting them could prove far more feasible than building brand new, cleaner ones.

Yet the economic viability of the Mountaineer plant’s new technology, known as carbon capture and sequestration, remains uncertain.

The technology is certain to devour a substantial amount of the plant’s energy output — optimists say 15 percent, and skeptics, 30 percent. Some energy experts argue that it could prove even more expensive than solar or nuclear power.

And as with any new technology, even the engineers are unsure how well it will work: will all of the carbon dioxide stay put?

Environmentalists who oppose coal mining and coal energy of any kind worry that sequestration could simply trade one problem, global warming, for another one, the pollution of water supplies. Should the carbon dioxide mix with water underground and form carbonic acid, they say, it could leach poisonous materials from rock deep underground that could then seep out.

Given the depths to which workers have drilled, they also fret that the project could cause earthquakes, although experts at theEnvironmental Protection Agency discount the risk of catastrophe.

More broadly, some environmentalists argue that the carbon storage effort could give corporations and consumers another excuse to drag their heels in supplanting coal dependence with an embrace of renewable energy sources like the sun and wind.

“Coal is the drug of choice of a major industry with a lot of political power,” said David H. Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan, an environmental group.

Instead of adopting carbon capture, which Mr. Holtz likens to a methadone cure for addiction, he argues that the industry would do better to go cold turkey.

“There’s no evidence that burying carbon dioxide in the earth is a better strategy than aggressively pursuing other alternatives that clearly are better for the environment and will in the long run be less costly,” Mr. Holtz said.

But power company officials say the effort is the energy industry’s best hope of stanching carbon dioxide emissions over the next few decades.

“I really believe, in my heart of hearts, that coal is going to be burned around the world for years to come,” said Michael Morris, chairman and president of American Electric Power, which owns the plant here. “Retrofitting is going to be essential.”

American Electric Power is the nation’s largest electricity producer, with a coal-fired grid stretching across 11 states.

If all goes smoothly, this week engineers will begin pumping carbon dioxide, converted to a fluid, into a layer of sandstone 7,800 feet below the rolling countryside here and then into a layer of dolomite 400 feet below that.

The liquid will squeeze into tiny pores in the rock, displacing the salty water there, and assume a shape something like a squashed football, 30 to 40 feet high and hundreds of yards long.

American Electric Power’s plan is to inject about 100,000 tons annually for two to five years, about 1.5 percent of Mountaineer’s yearly emissions of carbon dioxide. Should Congress pass a law controlling carbon dioxide emissions and the new technology proves economically feasible, the company says, it could then move to capture as much as 90 percent of the gas.

For now the project consists of the two wells and a small chemical factory. In the factory, smoke diverted from the plant’s chimney is mixed with a chilled ammonia-based chemical. The chemical is then heated, releasing the carbon dioxide, which is pumped deep into the wells.

American Electric Power is spending $73 million on the capture and storage effort, which includes half the cost of the factory. Alstom, the manufacturer of the new equipment, paid for the other half of the factory, hoping to develop expertise that will win it a worldwide market. Alstom would not say what it spent, but public figures indicate that the two companies are jointly spending well over $100 million.

For energy planners, a crucial question is how much this technology would cost if refined and installed on a bigger scale. The answer remains elusive.

Still, many scientists emphasize that Mountaineer is within a dozen miles of four other big coal plants with a combined capacity of 6,000 megawatts, a concentration so great that industry insiders have nicknamed the area Megawatt Alley. If the technology spread to all of them in a cost-effective way, many say, it could have a broad impact on the coal industry.

S. Julio Friedmann, leader of the carbon management program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, calls this corner of the Ohio River Valley a “must win” region for carbon dioxide storage.

Robert Socolow, a Princeton University engineering professor, echoed that sentiment. The nation’s fleet of coal-burning plants “completely dominates our national emissions,” Professor Socolow said.

It is also far easier to corral several million tons flowing from a single chimney than a comparable amount coming from tens of millions of car tailpipes or home heating systems, experts point out.

Far larger projects for capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground have been under way for several years in Europe and North Africa. In North Dakota, the Great Plains Synfuels plant, which converts methane to natural gas, takes the leftover carbon dioxide and pumps it through a pipeline to Canada to stimulate oil production there. But Mountaineer is the world’s first electricity plant to capture and store carbon dioxide.

A state permit issued to American Electric Power limits the pressure it can use to inject carbon dioxide into the rock. This is to reduce the risk that the injection will crack rock layers above that engineers are counting on to keep the carbon dioxide in place.

A nonprofit research group, Battelle Memorial Institute, has installed monitoring wells around the rock that will measure changes in pressure and temperature. Engineers can also send energy pulses through the earth between the wells and measure how fast these travel, as a guide to how the carbon dioxide is spreading.

Asked whether the injections of carbon dioxide could increase the frequency or magnitude of the small earthquakes that are common in the area, an E.P.A. official said it seemed unlikely.

“With proper site selection and good management, we should be able to implement this safely,” said Dina Kruger, director of the agency’s climate change division. Ms. Kruger also emphasized that the carbon dioxide would be monitored to see if it was seeping.

Some local residents are skeptical.

“It doesn’t matter to me if a scientist says it may or may not leak,” said Elisa Young, an anti-coal activist who lives nearby on the Ohio side of the river. “That’s not going to stop it from leaking when push comes to shove.”

At the same time, many others in this coal-dependent region suggest that the notion that carbon dioxide is a menace has been overplayed.

Charles A. Powell, the manager of the Mountaineer plant, who has worked there since it opened three decades ago, pointed out that the gas is given off by every human and animal.

“You are breathing out?” he asked a visitor dryly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dangers of Carbon Sequestration Why it Should not Be Used excessively

© Sudheendra Dhulipala

This article discusses the negative effects of carbon sequestration and why it's not a perfect solution to excessive carbon gas emission problems.

CO2 Transport Versus the 50-State Sequestration Strategy, Pa

Current Administration and congressional climate proposals depend heavily on geological sequestration to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants and other major sources and tend to presume that sources in every state will have access to nearby underground storage capacity. This is the second post in a three-part series reviewing obstacles to a 50-state sequestration strategy and suggesting the need for a national infrastructure to support medium to long-range transport of CO2.

Even if additional research and site characterization could resolve geological uncertainties regarding widespread local CO2 storage, companies also will have to overcome the public and political opposition that locally undesirable land use (LULU) energy projects engender. While CO2 sequestration provides important global benefits, local communities are likely to balk at hosting a sequestration project injecting millions of tons of liquid CO2 as a waste product under or near their communities.

The saga of Used Nuclear Fuel Storage at Yucca Mountain in Nevada illustrates the challenge of siting even one nationally-important, but locally-opposed, facility. First identified as the nation’s prospective high-level nuclear waste storage site in 1987 and approved by Congress in 1994, the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste storage facility received over 9 billion dollars in funding through 2008 despite vociferous opposition from local stakeholders and, in some cases, key federal constituencies. In early 2009, the Obama Administration proposed to defund the project. While only Congress can cancel the project, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has committed to doing just that. Irrespective of the merits of the decision to defund Yucca, it is a significant setback for the domestic nuclear energy industry, as the reversal leaves the nation twenty years behind in developing a long-term disposal strategy for high-level nuclear waste.

Even relatively innocuous renewable energy projects face siting difficulties. Indeed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently initiated a campaign to document the wide variety of energy projects that have been stopped or delayed across the nation by local opposition. The siting challenge illustrates an important reality check for policymakers and investors: a prospective site may contain optimal subsurface geologic characteristics, but if developers cannot negotiate the local siting process, the technical feasibility of a location is irrelevant.

Siting CCS facilities on federal lands may be one way to reduce the ability of local opposition to stop a project. The Department of Interior has estimated that 5.5 percent of the onshore U.S. CO2 storage capacity is beneath potentially leasable Federal lands. But, federal lands bring limitations of their own. First, federal lands are not uniformly distributed across regions and states, and many areas of the country (e.g., the northeast, southeast and midwest) lack large swaths of federal lands on which facilities could be sited. The disconnect is even more significant when major emissions sources are considered. According to a recent DOE Report, while 65% of emissions come from east of the Mississippi River, 83% to 86% of storage capacity on federal lands lies west of the Mississippi River. In other words, a siting strategy that relies on federal lands for citing will require investment on CO2 transport to match source generation to sequestration capacity.

Second, federal lands are subject to a variety of restrictions and extensive regulatory review requirements on the use of federal lands. Any commercial-scale sequestration funded by federal dollars or constructed on federal lands will be subject, at a minimum, to the environmental review requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the historic review requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act. These statutes delay construction schedules, create potential avenues for litigation from opposing parties, and inject risk and expense into large-scale projects. The federal government would also have to determine that the proposed sequestration projects would be consistent with other approved uses for a federal land, a determination that can involve many different federal agencies working through multi-year planning processes.

Whether CCS project developers use federal, state, or privately-owned land for sequestration projects, they will have to demonstrate that their siting choices are safe for the local communities, safe for the local environment, and consistent with the legal standards governing such land-use. While well-funded, well-planned, and well-organized projects will be capable of overcoming these obstacles, such approvals will come at a financial and political cost. Policymakers need to factor in the realistic costs of addressing community concerns and project approvals into their policy calculus if they are to develop a realistic understanding of when, where, and how the U.S. will be able to site the sequestration capacity needed to meet carbon mitigation goals - at a financial and political price that the public will bare.

Geological Sequestration Projects Hitting Public Opposition Wall

Last year, Swedish Company Vattenfall announced its plans to go on-line with a major pilot program to test carbon capture and sequestration at a coal-fired power plant. The company recently acknowledged that permitting snags fueled by local opposition render it unable to commence geologic sequestration of captured CO2. Vattenfall intended to begin capturing CO2 at its 30-megawatt Schwarze Pumpe facility, located in Spremberg, Germany, and sequestering it in the nearby Altmark depleted gas field by March or April 2009. Residents of the host-city, however, have expressed concerns about the safety of geological sequestration, preventing the final permitting approval for the site and creating questions about when - or if - the site could be available for any CCS operations.

Vattenfall’s experience at this project is not an isolated incident. Vattenfall reported delays in obtaining approvals for one of its Danish storage projects pointing, in part, to public opposition by local stakeholders. In June, German news sources reported that activists were protesting plans by electric utility RWE to transport captured CO2 by pipeline from a powerplant near Cologne to a sequestration site on Germany’s North Sea Coast. The Wall Street Journal also reported in April that Royal Dutch Shell had run into challenges siting a sequestration facility in Barendrecht, Netherlands, due to grass roots opposition from local residents.

Public opposition is likely to be a critical strategic and legal consideration for US projects. On Friday, August 21, Battelle, the lead partner in a Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership project announced that it was abandoning plans to participate in a $92 million public-private demonstration project to site a geological sequestration project in Western Ohio. While the partner cited only “business reasons” for its decision, the reported public opposition to the project could not have helped.

These setbacks illustrate the significant challenges that the siting and permit-approval process can pose, particularly in the face of public opposition, to an otherwise promising project. This will be particularly true during the early stages of a CCS deployment. US policymakers and investors would do well to watch and learn from these early case studies, and to ensure that they devote the legal, political and community relations resources needed to ensure that proposed projects move forward in a realistic and timely fashion.

Link to the above article

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Battelle Back in Darke County and now Mercer Co too

Battelle is once again looking at Darke County, Ohio, this time including Mercer County, Ohio, our neighbors to the north and home of State Rep. Jim Zehringer, who bitterly opposed the proposed CO2 sequestration project for Darke County. This time they are asking to do seismic testing for gas and oil recovery - aka "EOR" Enhanced Oil Recovery. Ahem.

When the Darke County project was canceled by Battelle, they were going to Edwardsport, IN. We understand, from our friends in IN, that it was not suitable and they are looking at eastern IN and are now back in our area of Ohio - this time requesting to do seismic testing "for EOR to recover oil and gas."

Many articles/studies suggest EOR is the easiest way to get into a community without Public Opposition - as a way to fly under the radar, so to speak.

An study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests it is way to be accepted by a community while building CO2 storage.

Wouldn't transparency be easier and build trust?

There is a lot of money to be made for the companies who successfully developed CCS - and a lot of risks for the communities who have the large-scale CO2 projects.

Perhaps the companies, colleges and universities pushing Carbon Capture and Sequestration could put it in their urban area instead of rural America. On this blog is a study that involved Judith Bradbury, our liaison with Battelle, in which she said Columbus, OH was too densely populated and too urban to get a CCS project.

If it's not safe for Columbus, isn't safe for rural America.

Every dollar spent on CCS is a dollar wasted - money that should have been spent on developing renewable energy.

The World's Largest CO2 Storage Research Project with EOR

Note - "CO2 Storage with EOR" -- Storage = Sequestration

Duke Energy CEO Questions Viability of ‘Clean’ Coal Technology, Future of Coal

"Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, raised questions on Wednesday about the viability of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants underground, and suggested that coal may not even be part of the energy mix by 2050.

“I actually can see a future where coal is not in the equation in 2050,” Rogers told reporters at an event in Washington.

He argued that it’s unlikely that the United States will be able to develop and bring to scale carbon-capture-and-storage – often called “clean coal” technology. “I think there’s no way we can scale in this country,” he said. “It’s more likely that China will develop and bring CCS to scale. I’d like to be China for a day so we can get CCS done. They’re more likely to get it scaled and deployed than we are. We’re going to be buying their technology.”

He also acknowledged that concerns about coal extraction methods like mountaintop removal may make coal more expensive in the near-term. “I’m under incredible pressure on moutaintop mining,” said Rogers. “Most of the coal we use in the southern part of the country is from mountaintop mining. I’m doing the math now and looking to determine my contracts and posing the question to my team, what if we made a policy decision that we’re not going to buy coal as a consequence of mountaintop mining.”

Read the rest of the story here............

The Role of CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery In Ohio’s Economy and Energy Future

The original article does not contain bold or highlighted text, that has been added by this blogger.

Other entries on this blog refer to EOR as the easiest way to get CO2 into a community without their opposition so they can go ahead and build their CO2 storage areas. Please read past entries to find those entries. EOR is suspect.

Note the reference to CO2 used for EOR - "Storage" = Sequestration

From the above link (2008)

I. Purpose of the study

"The Pew Center on Global Climate Change seeks to explore the potential development and use of coal gasification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in Ohio. Primary benefits of developing and deploying CCS in Ohio include power generated using readily available coal while achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from this generation. Additional benefits include many chemical by-products, especially captured CO2 which can be used commercially for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). Prior research completed by Kleinhenz & Associates for the Pew Center analyzed the economic activity factors related to coal gasification and how the location of a number of key support industries in Ohio could provide the state with a competitive advantage in this area.i This prior research did not address injection of CO2 into deep saline formations (sequestration), or storage of CO2 in association with EOR. The study also did not offer an estimate of the required pipeline network or the industries and employment affiliated with development of an Ohio CO2 market. Ohio firms have been major suppliers of the heavy equipment utilized in the oil and gas industry throughout North America. A CO2 EOR and sequestration industry would utilize similar types of heavy equipment in large volumes.

Further development of coal-gasification plants in Ohio depends upon a full understanding of the development of a CO2 market. The CO2 byproduct can be captured during the gasification process and transported via pipeline and injected in an oil or gas well to enhance recovery. With minor modifications to the process, volumes of CO2 stored through EOR can be documented. Carbon dioxide might also be sequestered (long-term) in a suitable underground reservoir containing no hydrocarbons (deep saline formation). Texas serves as a good example of a state in which the commercialization of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery as well as state regulations are well defined, while the CO2 industry in Ohio is neither defined nor commercialized. However, the Ohio House and Senate recently adopted an energy bill that would establish a regulatory framework for CO2,ii and provide credits to utilities that installed equipment for capturing carbon dioxide."

Again note - "Potential CO2 sinks" -- Sinks = CO2 Sequestration (Storage)

"Estimating the potential impact on Ohio-based industries requires a framework that includes the creation of a conceptual Ohio CO2 pipeline network. This network links proposed major sources of CO2 – such as coal gasification plants and biofuel plants – to some potential CO2 sinks with strong potential as EOR sites."

Thursday, September 3, 2009