Underground CO2 storage can be done "off the shelf" says UT prof.

Carbon sequestration – injecting the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants into the ground for long-term storage – is a greenhouse gas reduction method that is well within the energy industry’s reach, according to a new study published by University of Texas professor Steve Bryant.

A really simplistic view of carbon sequestration. DOE.

The feasibility study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Petroleum Technology, documents the technical requirements for storing CO2 underground and notes how it parallels current processes within the oil industry:

The oil industry has decades of experience moving and storing large amounts of gas underground and above ground, including carbon dioxide, said Bryant, associate professor of petroleum and geosystems engineering. Few other industries deal with fluid volumes of this size, he said. The industry could respond with an “off the shelf” geological-storage service in a short time-a key advantage given the urgency of the problem.

“This is not to dismiss the very real difficulty of finding and developing the financial and human resources for such an enterprise, nor of building the necessary infrastructure,” Bryant said.

Bryant remains realistic about the prospects for his industry to create clean air, however.

Steven Bryant and graduate research assistant Nicolas Huerta. Photo by Erin McCarley.

“The public perception of the ‘fairness’ of the industry’s role in geologic storage may distort or even overwhelm a rational evaluation of the challenges,” he noted in the report. “Although it provides more than half of the energy needed to fuel the global economy, the oil and gas industry has never garnered much public sympathy for its efforts. Ironically, being uniquely qualified to help save the planet may not improve the industry’s image.”

And, when it comes to setting the rules for CO2 sequestration, the states are the logical and “best equipped entities to implement and administer regulations for the storage of carbon dioxide,” according to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a group representing thirty U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

“Given the proposed long-term care-taker role of the states, they are likely to be the best positioned to provide the necessary cradle to grave regulatory oversight of CO2 storage,” said Lawrence Bengal, Chairman of the IOGCC Task Force in a statement.

Among the recommendations is a timeline for the liabilities associated with storage being transferred from the developer of the storage facility to the state over time. Getting some assurance on liabilities associated with the long term storage of any waste, including spent nuclear power plant fuel, is considered a key to getting private industry to invest in such technologies.
According to the IOGCC press release:

Scott Anderson, an Energy Policy Specialist for Environmental Defense and an observer to the Task Force deliberations, said that state oil and gas regulators have developed a set of model carbon storage requirements that are thoughtful, rigorous and not a walk in the park for industry.
“The IOGCC model rules will certainly be subject to revision as they are reviewed by more people and as more knowledge about geological sequestration is made. IOGCC’s work, however, is a strong, major step forward in the ongoing conversation about how to do carbon sequestration right,” said Anderson.