Archive for November, 2009

Captured CO2: It’s been around longer than you think

There is a lot of talk about carbon dioxide (CO2) capture these days…and that’s a good thing. In fact, the Associated Press recently reported that under a plan developed by Indiana Gasification LLC “carbon dioxide produced by a proposed southern Indiana coal gasification plant would be used to help boost oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Indiana Gasification Developer William Rosenberg explained that his company would sell carbon dioxide created at its Rockport plant to Denbury Resources, an independent oil and gas company in Plano, Texas that plans to build a “$1 billion pipeline to the Gulf and use the gas to force oil out of wells.” Rosenberg added that “companies in Illinois and Kentucky also have expressed interest in the pipeline to offset the cost.”

While this is extremely encouraging news, something seems to get lost when discussing the viability of CO2—and it’s the fact that there have been successful carbon capture projects going on in the U.S. for nearly 30 years.

Need proof? Earlier this year on the Factuality Tour, we spoke with Keith Tracy of Chaparral Energy’s CO2 Business Development Unit who told us just how long they had been capturing CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, just as Denbury Resources plans to do. Tracy also noted how his company transports and monitors CO2 and speaks to the importance of accelerating CO2pipeline infrastructure.

Take a look—you might be surprised at what he had to say.

The facts: CCT critical for clean energy future


Quick: what country is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal? Here’s a hint: not only is it the planet’s most-populous country, it’s also one of the most rapidly developing.

The answer, of course, is China.

In 2008, China consumed an estimated 3 billion short tons of coal, representing nearly 40 percent of the world total and a 129 percent increase since 2000.

While China may not have the most coal – it ranks behind the United States and Russia in terms of world reserves – these numbers make it clear that coal will continue to play a major part in the country’s development.

With that in mind, it becomes even more obvious why the continued development and deployment of advanced clean coal technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is so critical to our planet’s clean energy future.

Whoever can develop reliable carbon sequestration techniques first will have a leg up on marketing this technology to the rest of the world – especially in places like China where electricity demand and coal use are rapidly increasing.

Remember, we already export coal – and if we lead the way in creating and implementing the best ways to use it, we’ll also be exporting U.S.-developed technology. Not only is that good for our economy, it’s good for our planet as well.

Happy Thanksgiving

In honor of the start of the holiday season, the Behind the Plug blog will remain closed until Monday.

The facts: Russia a coal production leader but needs a hand with clean coal tech


You might be surprised to learn that the Russian Federation is second only to the U.S. in proven coal reserves (19 percent vs. 29 percent, respectively). In addition:

• Russia is the world’s fifth largest producer and the world’s third-largest exporter of coal (50 percent of which is consumed in European markets).

• Coal-generated power plants provided 23 percent of its electricity.

While the growth rate of coal production has exceeded growth rates for both natural gas and oil over the past several years, Russian advancements in clean coal technologies like carbon capture and storage leave much to be desired. This provides an enormous opportunity for the U.S. to step into a leadership role for clean energy technologies like integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Luckily, our leaders feel as strongly about this as we do. As U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu editorialized in Science Magazine:

“[T]he United States, Russia, China, and India account for two-thirds of the [world coal] reserves. Coal accounts for roughly 25% of the world energy supply and 40% of the carbon emissions. It is highly unlikely that any of these countries will turn their back on coal any time soon, and for this reason, the capture and storage of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants must be aggressively pursued.”

We may have raced Russia to the moon, but when it comes to clean coal technology, it’s clear that the U.S. is steps ahead. Exporting our technologies to countries like Russia that use their abundant coal for electricity will not only help our economy — it will help us cut global emissions, too.

The facts: India plans “ultra-mega” plants but needs help on CCS

According to the Energy Information Administration’s 2009 International Energy Outlook, India’s use of coal for electricity is projected to grow by 1.9 percent per year to 9.3 quadrillion Btu in 2030, as an additional 65 gigawatts of coal-generated capacity is brought online.

This growth is essential to India’s rapidly developing economy — and to provide electricity to millions of citizens currently without it. According to the World Bank — an organization working to help India renovate old energy facilities and build newer, cleaner-burning plants — 400 million people live there without access to reliable electricity. Those same figures show that in 2008, India faced a 16.6 percent shortfall during peak consumption hours.

India plans to address these reliability issues by:

•Building “ultra mega power plants (UMPP),” each with generating capacity of 4,000 megawatts or more. At least 14 UMPP sites have been identified so far.

Importing three times the amount of coal in 2030 than it did in 2007.

Despite this forward momentum, India faces other challenges, including insufficient energy investments and environmental issues. Simply put, developing and implementing next generation clean coal technologies like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is not yet a priority for this developing nation.

That’s why U.S. leadership in this area is so critical. Bringing CCS to developing countries like India can help ensure that our global neighbors don’t have to choose between clean energy and none at all.

CCS partnerships: Notes from day three of Regional Carbon Sequestration Conference

Factuality_Badge_2This is the fourth in a series of posts from ACCCE’s National Communications Director, Steve Gates, who attended the Regional Carbon Sequestration Conference in Pittsburgh from Nov. 16-19, 2009.

Last summer, the International Energy Agency (IEA) laid out in stark terms what climate change might look like in four decades: Without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and other emission reducing measures like efficiency and increased renewable power, CO2 emissions could rise by 130 percent in 2050.

What that means in practical terms: Such an emission increase would lead to the global temperature rising by several degrees within the next 40 years. We heard this first-hand from IEA Analyst Brendan Beck this past Wednesday at the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships Annual Review Meeting in Pittsburgh.

To significantly reduce global emissions, according to the IEA, 100 CCS power plants must come online by 2020; that number must be 3,400 by 2050.

Why the colossal jump? The IEA’s 2009 roadmap on CCS says it all: “CCS is the only technology available to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale fossil fuel usage in fuel transformation, industry and power generation.”

To that end, Beck came to Pittsburgh to applaud U.S. efforts, as well as to reinforce the case that regional partnerships are vital to bring CCS technology forward.

That’s what this conference was all about: Seven sequestration partnerships across the U.S., encompassing 43 states and hundreds of organizations. They were all here—researchers, scientists, government officials, oil and gas companies, utilities and even conservationists—to move CCS forward and help mitigate increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Be sure the check out our interview with J. Alexandra Hakala, an official with the National Energy Technology Laboratory. She expressed confidence that the U.S. can hit the 2020 goal to bring commercial-level CCS technologies online.

We may have left town, but there are still plenty of highlights from Pittsburgh left to see. See them all at

The facts: Europe outspends the U.S. on carbon capture

Some of the most advanced clean tech developments are happening in Europe, where the likelihood of impeding carbon regulation is playing a role in the European Union’s (EU) future power generation strategy. Moreover, increased energy demand and a historical aversion to nuclear energy are causing the EU to consider an old standby: coal.

In fact:

•According to a 2008 New York Times article, European countries are expected to put into operation about 50 coal-powered plants through 2013, which will be in use for the next five decades.

•Europe’s first coal plant that captures and stores carbon dioxide debuted in Spremberg, Germany last year. The EU plans to get an additional 10 to 15 carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants in operation by 2015. According to a 2008 article from the MIT Technology Review, the information gained from testing a 30-megawatt test plant will be used to scale up to a 300-to-500 megawatt demonstration plant set to go online by 2015—and up to a further 1,000-megawatt commercial plant between 2015 and 2020.

•Emerging Energy Research analysts estimate more than $20 billion will be spent on CCS projects in 2009 with the EU’s investment ranked number one globally at $11.6 billion, followed by the U.S. (at $6 billion).

The EU is currently testing new CCS technologies at a number of plants to help make the systems commercially viable as quickly as possible. Britain’s first large-scale CCS-equipped power plant—the Powerfuel-run Hatfield plant in Yorkshire is slated for construction for 2010 and will be operational by 2015. The plant may also receive funding from the EU.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own energy debates and challenges. But as the EU and other regions have consistently demonstrated, coal-generated electricity and emerging emissions-reducing technologies are playing an important role in meeting growing energy demands with domestic resources.

A final thought from Pittsburgh

Factuality_Badge_2This is the third in a series of posts from ACCCE’s National Communications Director, Steve Gates, who attended the Regional Carbon Sequestration Conference in Pittsburgh from Nov. 16-19, 2009.

Conferences like the one I attended this week in Pittsburgh can be a bit overwhelming because of all the information that is discussed in a relatively small amount of time. For my final assignment this week from the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships Annual Review, I was asked to summarize what I learned about the status of carbon sequestration in the U.S. – a daunting task to say the least.

After hearing details from researchers and government officials about the latest stages of terrestrial and underground sequestration projects, one thing is sure: Carbon sequestration is a reality today.

For the critics of CCS, my only word of advice for you is to attend an event like this to learn just how far the technology has progressed over the past few years. It’s true, massive scientific endeavors like storing CO2 in geologic formations (as well as other processes) in the United States is not something that will happen on a wide scale tomorrow.

Remember, scientific breakthroughs need to be tested on a small scale first (usually in a laboratory), then rolled out into larger pilot test projects (where they are currently), and then finally for wide-spread deployment. (The National Energy Technology Laboratory has set a goal of making commercial-scale CCS technologies ready to deploy in the U.S. by 2020.)

I leave Pittsburgh with a renewed sense of optimism that CCS on a wide scale is getting closer all the time, and that meetings such as this one make that goal one-step closer to reality. Ultimately, CCS needs a collaborative multinational approach to reach its full potential, and meetings like the Regional Carbon Sequestration Conference not only help achieve that goal, it shows that the research needed for long-term success is moving ahead every day.