US to Bury Carbon Off Texas Coast?

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Capturing CO2 and re-injecting it into offshore geologic formations gets a look as 8 year count-down to carbon price begins.

With all 190 nations now agreeing to binding greenhouse gas reductions in a treaty of some sort to be in force in just 8 years, the release of a carbon capture study from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is well timed. It looks at the risks (and makes suggestions for reducing them) if we were to bury carbon out at sea, under the sea floor, off the Gulf coast.

Texas has exceptional geology for CCS, according to an earlier report out of the University of Texas, that looked at the geologic formations across the coastal region to evaluate them for geologic sequestration.

Interestingly, the US has the most of the the world’s first few pilot carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects in the world.
But many CCS projects have fallen apart for lack of carbon legislation to make them economically worth pursuing. That is about to change.

(Related: First US State to Codify Law for Carbon Sequestration is Wyoming)

Last year, the Department of Energy evaluated the gulf coast for carbon sequestration and found that there is vast potential for storing CO2 in underground salt-water deposits in the Gulf coast region, as well as in depleted oil and gas fields throughout the oil-producing region.

Following up on the DOE evaluation, the EDF has just released research that looks at ways to sequester carbon off the coast of Texas, under the seabed.

The EDF makes site suggestions for testing, anticipates environmental risks and provides recommendations during project siting and development, and was generated to safely and efficiently guide offshore CCS geologic sequestration projects to minimize risks to human health and the environment.

But doing it right  is key. Carbon storage is risky. The EDF makes these ten recommendations:

1.Following threshold standards to avoid negative effects on human health or coastal natural resources;
2.Taking an overall precautionary approach wherever possible;
3.Performing site-specific evaluations within the full zone of potential impact, even if not required by law;
4.Choosing sites with the least potential for leakage;
5.Applying recently adopted U.S. EPA rules for groundwater protection even if not required by law;
6.Locating sites as far from shorelines and existing aquifers as feasible;
7.Reusing or collocating equipment new project footprints;
8.Selecting back-up sites where possible;
9.Developing site specific monitoring, verification, accounting, and reporting plan; and
10.Evaluating feasible mitigation measure prior to site operation.

CCS is one of the wedges needed in achieving a low greenhouse gas world. China, India, and the US; the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are for the first time included among the 190 nations that have now agreed to binding laws reducing them. The new international climate agreement will be worked out over the next 3 years and become law in just a short 8 years. With a global price on carbon, carbon capture will start to be more economically viable.That investment in CCS R&D by the US will start to pay off.

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