We propose a technology that changes carbon dioxide (CO2) from a waste to a commodity, prevents CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, and helps create thousands of green jobs across the nation.
Owing to its high carbon content, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel resource, accounting for over 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2008. However, coal is the largest electricity source, accounting for almost half of the nation’s electricity generation and providing 60,000 jobs in 2009. The United States owns the largest coal reserve in the world, equivalent to a 245-year supply at current consumption rates. With coal inexpensive to mine and plentiful in supply, the United States cannot effectively address climate change without capturing and sequestering CO2 emissions from coal.
The major obstacle to implementing CO2 Capture and Sequestration (CCS) today is its high cost. If there existed a dependable market for CO2, power plants would choose to capture and sequester CO2 emissions instead of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, however, there is no dependable market for CO2 from coal plants because many industries seeking to purchase large amounts of CO2, particularly enhanced oil recovery industries, have variable and localized demand that doesn’t match supply (either spatially or in time). Our technology will address this mismatch between CO2 supply and demand.
We propose CO2 Interim Storage, or briefly, CIS. CIS involves developing an interim storage network in areas where CO2 is the missing link between potential producers (coal power plants) and potential consumers (enhanced oil recovery industries). CO2 can be stored in underground reservoirs upon production and withdrawn when required to satisfy demand. This network will work similarly to the natural gas transmission and storage infrastructure. The sale of CO2 to customers can offset infrastructure and pumping costs required to setup the storage network, and, in the long run, can help compensate for the sequestration cost of carbon. Altogether, the potential benefits of CIS include:
CO2STORE provides storage and market clearing for CO2 captured from coal power plant emissions.
Target markets for CO2STORE are US geographies with coal power plants, prioritizing first geographies with enhanced oil recovery (EOR) sites. Our firm will sign supply agreements with coal power plants, through which we will help offset capital and operating costs for carbon capture.
CO2 will then be sold to EOR sites upon demand, utilizing interim storage in saline aquifers and depleted oil & gas fields to match supply and demand for CO2.
We modeled the economics and infrastructure requirements to build a simplified CO2 interim storage network in the state of Wyoming. This network utilizes six small interim storage sites to meet the CO2 demand for four large enhanced oil recovery fields from the CO2 emissions of the six largest in-state coal power plants.
Using market prices for CO2 and preliminary estimates for operating and capital costs for interim storage, we believe the project can earn modest returns in our base case and can offer a very attractive upside to investors if cap-and-trade or carbon legislation is passed.
The plan for CO2STORE is the result of 2 years of research involving reservoir characterization, system optimization, and cost estimates, focusing on the Wyoming Case Study as a pilot site.
CO2STORE would operate as an independent 3rd party that builds, operates, and optimizes the performance of a CO2 network to bridge the gap between CO2 supply from coal power plants and CO2 demand for EOR.
Depleting oil reservoirs have very favorable geological characteristics that allow for safe CO2 sequestration. Demand for CO2 in small EOR fields, however, is both localized and erratic, making supply uneconomical and difficult to arrange without infrastructure to store and transport CO2. Individual EOR sites – being small and independent – lack the incentive to invest in a storage and delivery network.
Coal power plants lack the engineering talent to construct the CO2 network and manage underground storage sites, may be prohibited by their charters/regulation. Thus, similar to EOR sites, coal power plants cannot fully utilize network capacity the way an independent 3rd party like CO2STORE can.