Big bucks for carbon sequestration

The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently awarded about $14 million for carbon sequestration projects to be overseen by the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership. Westcarb, as the partnership is known, is part of the U.S. DOE’s effort to deploy technologies through its Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) program.

New members Alberta and British Columbia have joined Saskatchewan and Manitoba as Canadian partners in the RCSP program, which is the centerpiece of efforts to validate carbon sequestration technologies and deploy them across North America. By bringing together federal and state agencies and private companies, the program aims to determine the most suitable technologies, regulations, and infrastructure for future carbon capture, storage, and sequestration on the continent.

Back in August 2003, the DOE selected seven charter partnerships. Now 216 organizations spanning 40 states, three Indian nations, and four Canadian provinces participate—underscoring the importance of the effort. The regional partnerships support President Bush’s Global Climate Change Initiative, which calls for an 18% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas intensity by 2012. They also complement the work of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, an international effort spearheaded by the DOE to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage technologies worldwide.

The partnerships provide a critical link to the administration’s plans for FutureGen, the proposed zero-emissions coal-fired power plant being designed to produce both hydrogen and electricity (Figure 4). The partnerships will provide the regulatory, infrastructure, and site-selection bases for possible wide-scale deployment of FutureGen-derived plants in the future.

4. Future shock. FutureGen is the $1 billion initiative to build a zero-emissions prototype plant that produces electricity and hydrogen and sequesters carbon. Source: U.S. DOE

The boost in California funding for carbon sequestration testing comes at the same time as proposals to build about 30 coal-fired plants in western states. Westcarb is focusing on two kinds of carbon sequestration: terrestrial (changing management of forests to enable them to remove more CO2 from the air) and geologic (capturing CO2 produced by industrial plants before it is released and injecting it into leak-proof geologic formations).

Who got the $14 million? The CEC awarded roughly $10 million to the California Institute of Energy and Environment to conduct assessments of geologic formations in the West that could be suitable for CO2 sequestration. Another $3.7 million went to EPRI, which will use some of the funding to evaluate the economics of the sequestration process. Finally, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection was given $200,000 to test ways of restoring ailing forests to their original health, while $150,000 was received by the California Department of Conservation to continue its assessments of geologic formations identified as potentially suitable CO2 storage sites.

More information about the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships is available at http://www.fe.doe.gov/programs/sequestration/partnerships/.