Washington state’s Department of Ecology has just granted the permit for the world’s first pilot test of carbon capture and sequestration in continental flood basalt near a paper mill in Wallula.
With the permit approved, the Wallula pilot will start injecting 1,000 tons of CO2 into a 4,000-foot well at Wallula, Washington, by January. It will take about two weeks. Then, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory National Laboratory and Battelle will monitor it for a year and a half, extracting fluid and gas samples to track the evolution of chemistry in the subsurface. If successful, large commercial-scale CO2 sequestration could be done in about eight years, in a type of rock called continental flood basalt.
Battelle scientists have been test drilling at the site for almost two years already, seeing whether the subterranean basalt formation that lies beneath Wallula could be used to sequester CO2. Over the course of the drilling, the scientists gathered data on its suitability for carbon sequestration.
The $10 million pilot project is one of several CCS pilots partly funded by the DOE with a $4.6 million grant from the Obama administration Recovery Act last year. Initially the project was to have been sited at the Port of Walla Walla, but opposition and liability concerns forced a move to the Boise White Paper mill at Wallula. Paper mills are right behind cement companies in carbon dioxide emissions, and alone among non-energy businesses that would be required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions if climate legislation is passed.
Last year a DOE-funded $500,000 cost/benefit analysis of adding CCS to the Boise Mill actually found that adding a co-generation plant to the paper mill would be more cost-effective for the mill than capturing and storing carbon, because co-gen units would bring revenue from excess renewable energy that it could sell on the market. But that was under the assumption that last year’s climate bill would pass, creating the cap and trade market. Without it, it is not affordable.
If there was a market for renewable energy credits, as there would have been under cap and trade, the co-generation unit could pay for itself and the mill could shut down some antiquated boilers, and reduce its emissions much more economically than with CCS.
Boise spokesman Destry Henderson told Energy Prospects that the company is not currently considering adding a co-gen facility at the Wallula Mill, citing the expense of investing in co-gen with a now uncertain carbon market.
Worldwide, however, the market for both co-generation and CCS is likely to be much more viable and stable, making the investment in staying current in the technology worthwhile for its export potential.
Both Europe and China now have cap and trade markets, providing the catalyst for carbon reduction technology development. China is the perfect example. Although rapidly ramping up wind development, it still gets two thirds of its energy from coal, and has made major commitments to reduce the carbon emissions of coal with co-generation and CCS.
Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.