You may be saying to yourself, "Enough already with the carbon sequestration!"
After all, we have covered it repeatedly in these pages over the past year. And during the campaign season politicians talked about it as a new and breakthrough technology to enable ever-cleaner use of global coal resources – even though our colleagues in the Permian Basin have been doing it for more than three decades under the guise of enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
There are differences between CO2 flooding for EOR and long-term geological carbon sequestration. Sequestration requires injecting large volumes of CO2 through the smallest number of wells possible, and ensuring the CO2 remains confined over long periods of time. The technical challenges are issues of scale.
The fundamental geological and engineering principles still apply: AAPG members are the experts.
As a scientific and professional association, AAPG has prepared statements on a variety of issues. These statements express the views of the Association, based on our expertise, and are reviewed and revised periodically.
Each statement is prepared under the auspices of the DPA Government Affairs Committee, reviewed by the DPA and approved by the AAPG Executive Committee.
The latest statement approved by the AAPG Executive Committee is on carbon sequestration. It specifically "urges the expansion of funding for scientific research on permanent carbon storage and for scientific research related to reservoir performance." The complete statement is available on the DPA Government Affairs Committee Web page and linked from the GEO-DC Web page.
Carl Smith, who chairs the DPA Government Affairs Committee and shepherded this statement through the approval process, is pleased with the result, writing:
"Carbon sequestration is a cross-cutting issue that calls upon the expertise of the entire Association and its three divisions. It also demonstrates to society-at-large how the geosciences positively affect their lives. Special thanks to Jim Drahovzal, the principal author of the statement, and to the many reviewers who contributed helpful comments and suggestions."
AAPG is not alone looking at carbon sequestration:
- In October 2008 the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington, D.C.-based environmental think-tank, issued a 148-page report outlining guidelines for safely and effectively conducting carbon capture and storage operations. They looked at all parts of the chain: carbon capture, transport and sequestration.
WRI invited a diverse group of stakeholders to participate in the process, including industry, NGOs and government representatives (as observers). The report is wide-ranging, offering specific guidelines for policy makers, regulators and project developers and operators.
A copy of the report is available for download on the WRI Web site.
- On the government front, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft rule on how it proposed to regulate long-term carbon sequestration. It posted this draft rule and requested public comment. EPA is now reviewing the comments received, and will use these to revise the rule.
- The U.S. Department of Energy's seven regional carbon sequestration partnerships across the country are currently in their second phase, designing and testing medium-scale sequestration technologies. DOE has also awarded several large-scale sequestration projects for phase 3, with the goal of injecting up to one million tons of CO2. These projects are currently in the planning phase.
- Finally, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which the president signed into law on Oct. 3, provides a new tax credit for carbon sequestration operations. Designed to stimulate carbon sequestration activities, the provision provides a $20 per ton credit for capturing carbon dioxide from an industrial source and sequestering it in a secure geological storage unit. When the storage unit is an oil and gas reservoir (i.e., EOR activity) the tax credit is $10 per ton of sequestered carbon.
This raises an important point: Carbon sequestration will occur only if there is a reason to do it. In his November 2008 EXPLORER column, AAPG President Scott Tinker suggested that an international energy policy should, "[S]et a transparent, predictable, economy-wide global carbon price that is reasonably stable, avoids waste, uses revenues wisely and is coordinated with major developing and developed nations..."
The Democrat leadership in Congress has indicated they would like to address the issue of carbon price within the context of climate change legislation. But it is not clear how this would dovetail with a coordinated international effort.
It also is unclear what impact the current financial crisis will have on these efforts.
Stay tuned. The 111th Congress convenes January 2009.