An infrastructure agreement could create pipelines for carbon dioxide

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The new generation of pipelines could arise from a bilateral infrastructure agreement passing through Congress. But instead of transporting oil and gas, the pipelines carry carbon dioxide that warms the planet. A massive bill would finance new infrastructure for carbon capture and transport to places where it can be buried underground or used in carbonated products soda.

The goal of carbon capture technology is to capture carbon dioxide directly at the source of emissions – but it is still controversial among climate activists, and many see it as the wrong solution to disrupt emissions reduction targets. But Congress ’new two-party infrastructure plan invests billions of dollars in the idea and commits the United States to ambitious carbon capture and removal programs that have never been attempted on such a large scale.

“The infrastructure bill has opened the plugs for carbon capture pipes. Precautionary,” has tweeted Alan Ramo, Professor Emeritus at the Golden Gate University School of Law.

The new provisions focus mainly on the use of carbon capture and sequestration to combat industrial emissions instead of emissions from the energy sector. Biden’s administration has in particular encouraged carbon capture industries such as cement and steel, which are difficult to electrify and remove carbon. (Cement alone accounts for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions.) Focusing on these industries may hinder carbon capture as a means of extending the life of coal-fired power plants or other high-emission energy sources. carbon capture technologies used in the energy sector.

A new infrastructure bill would fund a kind of network for industrial carbon capture and storage. Significant work has already been done on scrubber technology, which removes carbon from the source, so the new bill will direct much of its funding to building a pipeline network that would carry CO2 away from the original emission point. The bill also finances projects that could target that carbon dioxide, either by using it in commercial products or by injecting it into the ground for storage.

The full text of the bill, published by senators on August 1, transforms a series of carbon capture and removal technologies into a fundamentally new type of critical infrastructure. “Carbon transport and storage infrastructure faces similar barriers to deployment that have previously been faced by other types of critical national infrastructure, such as high capital costs and egg challenges, which require federal and state support combined with private investment. to win, ”the proposal says.

In total, the two-party infrastructure package has set aside more than $ 8.58 billion for coal capture and removal. Much of the money will be split between the financial infrastructure needed to transport CO2 and finding the final destination. The Department of Energy would receive $ 100 million for the design of “transportation infrastructure,” or pipelines, to transport carbon dioxide. There is still $ 2.1 billion to provide low-interest loans and grants for carbon transportation infrastructure projects in 2022-2026.

The bill would also give the DOE $ 2.5 billion over five years to develop “commercial large” projects for the safe storage of carbon dioxide. It sets aside funds for wells to bury carbon dioxide deep into geological formations. In particular, the bill considers the external continental shelf – an offshore area beyond the jurisdiction of states – as one site for carbon sequestration and allows the Department of the Interior to allow coal storage projects there. The bill also creates a scholarship program for states and local governments to purchase and use products made from carbon dioxide, such as concrete and plastic.

The bill also includes four regional nodes across the United States for “direct air capture” facilities – facilities that sequester carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. Over the next five years, $ 3.5 billion would be spent on these “regional centers,” each capable of capturing at least a million tons of carbon dioxide annually (approximately 120,000 homes in the United States could produce from their energy consumption annually). ).

Measures at the pilot plant for direct capture of CO2 by carbon dioxide technology

Technicians will inspect the direct air recovery system at Carbon Engineering Ltd’s pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, on Monday, November 4, 2019.
James MacDonald / Bloomberg through Getty Images

Carbon capture and removal is still expensive and at a relatively early stage of development, so it is likely to be developed only with significant government funding. Even less attention has been paid to the pipeline infrastructure to support it.

“The problem is who pays for this gigantic pipeline at first, when there are only a handful of projects,” says Noah Deich, director of nonprofit Carbon180, who advocates decarbonization technologies. “That legislation is mainly encouraged by the construction of large pipelines from the outset to overcome the chicken and egg problem and bring about more and more of these industrial projects.”

However, critics remain concerned that the focus on carbon capture and sequestration will primarily take efforts to revitalize the economy from fossil fuels, halting CO2 emissions and other associated pollutants in general. Hundreds of environmental groups sent a letter To Biden last month and called carbon capture a “dangerous distraction.”

The groups also warned that it would take money from other important environmental measures. The two-party infrastructure law contained far less funding for climate action and environmental clean-up than proposed by the Biden administration earlier this year. But the infrastructure package contains much of what the proponents of carbon capture and removal had called for in an earlier bill called SCALE law.

The Infrastructure Act provides “minimal support” for the transition to renewable energy while “wasting” billions on carbon capture, said Carroll Muffett, CEO of the International Center for Environmental Law. Limit. “As a corporate gift, the energy performance of an infrastructure show is a huge success. In response to a climate emergency, they are a miserable failure. “

There are also fears around the pipelines. Carbon pipelines would likely be concentrated in industrial areas and thus less widespread than pipelines used for fossil fuels. But it could add an extra burden to industries already overcrowded.

And as with fossil fuel pipelines, there are risks associated with this infrastructure. The recovered carbon dioxide is transferred in high concentrations at high pressure. This makes it potentially suffocating if the relocation of the infrastructure fails. When a pipeline carries carbon dioxide to improve oil recovery in Mississippi broken last year, 45 people were treated in hospital. Sheriff researcher described sick people at work ”like zombies“After the event.

“The transport and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) involves a massive network of dangerous pipelines connected to underground injection sites, and each has its own dangers,” Biden’s July letter says.

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