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DOE to stress funding for carbon capture, use and storage absent climate legislation

Posted on the 27 October, 2011 at 3:36 pm Written by in Uncategorized

Energy Department to stress funding for carbon capture, use and storage absent climate legislation, official says: Houston Chronicle, Puneet Kollipara

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Department of Energy will emphasize funding for carbon capture, sequestration and utilization research and projects as a way to “move the needle” on climate change in the coming decade in the absence of climate legislation, a top official said.

Chuck McConnell, chief operating officer of the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, said at a conference today there’s nobody in his office “who’s going to wait around for climate legislation and be paralyzed in the meantime.”

The likelihood of climate legislation clearing both chambers of Congress has fallen substantially since Senate Republicans filibustered a cap-and-trade bill in 2010. With fossil fuels not going away anytime soon, McConnell said his agency would continue funding research into technologies for capturing and using carbon emissions.

“We’re going to take a business and industrial approach to it and put together market plans and business plans that industry can get behind and want to invest, not be forced to invest,” McConnell said.

DOE has touted using captured carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery, which industry has increasingly turned to for extracting oil that first-line and second-line methods can’t access.

McConnell said funding the research is especially important because companies are running out of carbon dioxide for use in EOR, “Yet we’re venting it like there’s nobody’s business.” One EOR method involves injecting carbon dioxide into wells to make crude in deep rock formations less viscous and easier to extract.

The DOE says the U.S. has more than a trillion barrels of undeveloped oil resources still in the ground. About 430 billion barrels of that is recoverable using today’s technology, including EOR methods, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

EOR is most common right now in the Permian Basin region of Texas and New Mexico. Some companies in Texas, including ExxonMobil Corp., have started shifting toward EOR to access harder-to-reach oil as first- and second-line methods extract less and less oil.

Using EOR methods could add as many as 2.5 million jobs and reduce oil imports by 30 to 40 percent in the next 20 years, McConnell said. The Texas Bureau of Economic Geology has suggested that extracting even 10 percent of the crude that EOR methods can reach in the state could add over $200 billion to the Texas economy and create 1.5 million jobs in the state.

Carbon capture, sequestration and utilization projects are occurring right now in the absence of congressional action on climate, because they make sense economically to industry.”

He added that government subsidies have helped the cause.

The DOE in late September finalized $450 million in previously announced funding for the Texas Clean Energy Project near Odessa, Texas, a 400-megawatt power plant that will capture 90 percent of emitted carbon for later EOR use.

Billions of dollars in similar projects are underway nationwide with DOE funding, he said, including FutureGen 2.0, a project for retrofitting St. Louis-based Ameren Corp.’s 200-megawatt coal plant in Meredosia, Ill.

“That’s what we’re supposed to be doing at Fossil Energy, catalyzing industries that are going to have a long-term future in this country,” he said.

Enhanced oil recovery is one facet of the DOE’s fossil-fuel portfolio that also includes research and development into shale gas technologies, as well as technologies for capturing, sequestering and utilizing carbon emissions from coal combustion.

But with Congress looking for ways to reduce the federal deficit, McConnell said he felt certain the DOE’s budget would face cuts in the coming years.

“We have to figure out how to do more with less,” he said. “Sounds trite, but it’s absolutely true.”

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