Carbon Capture and Storage - Can CCS Be a Viable Business?

The 21st Ethylene Producers Conference
2010 AIChE Spring Meeting
AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
March 21, 2010 - 8:00pm
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been characterized as the technology that can jump start mitigation of greenhouse gases until new, less carbon intensive technology can be implemented to provide electrical power, transportation fuels and energy our society needs to stay competitive in the world economy. This paper will review the current legislation that has been proposed by Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the effect the proposed regulations will have on existing CCS operations and the impact the proposed regulations will have on companies focused on developing CCS into an ongoing economically viable business. Individual states have preempted the Federal government in developing regulations governing the CCS within their boundaries which will also impact the development and build-out of a viable CCS infrastructure.

Today, we have two markets for the CO2 molecule. First and foremost it can be described as a commodity for use in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) where it has been used for almost 40 years in the Permian Basin of Texas. CO2 for EOR has been a viable, established and ongoing business model for several companies but faces potential challenges from pending legislation and future regulations by the EPA. Current infrastructure will be discussed and new areas under consideration for expanded EOR operations will be high-lighted.

Secondly, CO2 has been characterized as an “air pollutant” by the U.S. Supreme Court under the Clean Air Act. This ruling creates the potential for major differences in regulatory oversight and will have major consequences in development of a viable economic business model for the sequestration of CO2 outside of its use for EOR. Economic opportunities for geological sequestration are reviewed with respect to the impact pending legislation could have on this emerging business model. Pending legislation can either jump start or create barriers to entry so high that companies will not get involved because of the perceived risks and long term liabilities that accompany sequestration.
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