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DCNR Reports On Carbon Dioxide Storage Show Opportunities, Need For Changes In Law

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources this week posted two reports online that conclude that with the appropriate changes in laws, Pennsylvania's geology could store carbon dioxide in a cost-competitive and manageable way. 

            Creating such a system would bring with it jobs and a cleaner environment, but it cannot be accomplished without substantive changes to laws governing subsurface ownership rights and long-term liability issues.
            The reports conclude that the next step is to identify specific geographic areas where storage could be evaluated, but note that this promising technology cannot be deployed at power plant scale in Pennsylvania now or in the foreseeable future because ownership of adequate underground storage cannot be assembled.    
            "Gov. Rendell has made Pennsylvania a national leader in renewable energy development and in energy conservation and efficiency, but there is more work to be done as we confront the challenges of a warming planet," DCNR Secretary John Quigley said. "These reports suggest that a carbon capture and storage network, which would take the carbon emissions from the air and store it deep underground, can be achieved successfully and safely in Pennsylvania. But in order for Pennsylvania to provide this storage at the scale necessary to significantly offset carbon emissions, sweeping changes to state and federal laws are necessary.
            "Deploying this technology here would mean Pennsylvania's abundant coal resources could be used in a more environmentally sound manner, and that could lead to an extraordinarily large number of research and development, manufacturing, retrofit and export jobs for our citizens," Secretary Quigley added. "However, the issues that must be addressed include identifying specific storage sites, resolving the ownership of those sites and figuring out who is liable for maintaining a site after it closes."
            A carbon capture and sequestration network would collect carbon dioxide from coal-fired electricity generating plants and other industrial sources, compress it into a liquid, and then transport it through pipelines deep underground where it would be injected into the rock formations or other suitable geologic features. 
            The assessment prepared by Tetra Tech of Pittsburgh suggests that favorable geologic conditions exist for a network in Pennsylvania, which mirrors the findings of an initial report issued in May.
            The technical and economic analysis, which examined the potential of retrofitting six coal-fired power plants in central and southwestern Pennsylvania, was prepared by WorleyParsons Group Inc., Spectra Energy, Climate Change Capital, and the Clinton Climate Change Initiative, part of the William J. Clinton Foundation, in cooperation with cooperation from CONSOL Energy, Allegheny Energy, PPL, Midwest Edison, RRI Energy, GE and US Steel.
            Assuming no additional costs for subsurface rights or long term liability costs, a Pennsylvania-based network would bear total capture and compression costs of $43 to $69 per ton, along with transport and storage costs of $3 to $4 per ton. This per-ton cost range is competitive with international CCS projects that exist or have been proposed.
            Based on these numbers, the preliminary cost analysis for capture, transport and storage of carbon dioxide from six plants is estimated to be about $8 billion, with additional annual operating costs of $269 million. However, these estimates will vary depending upon further detailed engineering analysis and the actual volume of carbon dioxide that is captured, transported and stored.
            The assessment also found that CCS has some well-understood and quantifiable risks, which are now addressed in the private insurance market. However, the insurance market cannot fully insure CCS until all costs and risks associated with subsurface rights and long term liability are resolved by changes to federal and state statute and regulations.
            "CCS cannot be a viable emission reduction solution unless and until certain substantial legal issues are worked out," Secretary Quigley said. "Some business entity would be required to gain legal control over vast amounts of underground storage space—as much as 100 square miles per plant, according to U.S. Department of Energy estimates. Federal and state laws are unclear on ownership rights for that storage space. Sweeping federal or state legislation would be needed to assemble the necessary property rights for a CCS network in Pennsylvania."
            The two reports released today complete DCNR's work in complying with Act 129 of 2008. The findings were included in two separate reports provided to the Governor and General Assembly.
            The reports are available online.



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