Sufficient technical knowledge exists to begin large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstrations in the United States, according to guidelines released today by a coalition of business, environmental, academic and government groups.
The product of more than two years of research, Guidelines for CO2 Carbon, Capture, Transport and Storage was developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in conjunction with CCS experts from 88 organizations. Directed at policymakers and players in the emerging U.S. CCS industry, the guidelines are intended to guide full-scale demonstration, and provide recommendations for ensuring that projects are conducted responsibly.
“We have known for a long time that renewable energy and energy efficiency are critical to solving the climate crisis. The question has been what role can CCS play?” said Jonathan Pershing, director of WRI’s Climate and Energy Program. “Today’s report offers Congress and regulators a strong technical roadmap to help answer that question.”
WRI convened expert stakeholders for more than two years to develop the guidelines, soliciting expert input from federal and state government, business and civil society organizations ranging from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Resources Defense Council and the American Petroleum Institute.
“This group is a brain trust of CCS experts from all sectors, and their perspectives helped make the guidelines as comprehensive, detailed, and thorough as any work to date,” said Dr. S. Julio Friedmann of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, a contributing author to the guidelines.
“These guidelines should be considered essential reading for anyone needing to grasp how risks should be managed in geologic sequestration projects,” added Scott Anderson, senior policy advisor at Environmental Defense Fund. “Those who have studied CCS know that we can really do this.”
For the budding U.S. CCS industry, the guidelines are a significant development. They can help developers, insurers and financers determine that investments can be made with a much higher level of certainty. For a public with questions about storing carbon underground, they provide a set of rules to ensure that CCS projects are safe and effective. For government policymakers and agencies like the EPA, they confirm that large demonstrations can begin, and that regulatory and investment frameworks can move to facilitate deployment of the technology into the U.S. economy.
The guidelines address concerns about CCS projects like:
How to handle the environmental impacts of capturing carbon dioxide from a power plant or industrial facility.
How to ensure a carbon dioxide pipeline infrastructure meets operational standards and environmental requirements.
How to select a site; conduct a CO2 injection operation; and measure, monitor and verify that the storage of carbon dioxide underground is safe, and that questions about long-term stewardship are addressed.
The authors of the guidelines identify areas where additional research should be pursued, but conclude that large-scale demonstrations of CCS, as part of an assessment of moving to commercial operations, should begin as soon as possible.
“It is past time for the technology to mature. Polluting smokestacks should be a relic of the 20th century,” said Sarah Forbes, lead author of the report and a senior associate at WRI.