CCS News from Alberta, The Netherlands, and North Dakota

This week brought some important news about carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology from around the world. Canada’s province of Alberta is considering a bill that would allow it to accept long-term liability for injected carbon dioxide; a key project to capture the greenhouse gas in Barendrecht, the Netherlands was shelved mostly due to public opposition; and a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) field test shows it is possible to store carbon dioxide in unmineable lignite seams.

Alberta Proposes to Take Up CCS Liability

CCS legislation introduced by Alberta last week proposes that the province accept long-term liability for injected carbon dioxide once the stored gas is contained.

The Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act, 2010, Bill 24, clarifies ownership of pore space, which is tiny holes in porous rock where carbon would be stored. The bill also establishes a fund financed by CCS operators for ongoing monitoring costs and any required remediation. The legislation does not, however, propose any changes to ownership of mine and minerals resources.

Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert told reporters that it was important that the province, as a long-term entity, pick up liability. “One of the difficulties that you have is, if you don’t have some ongoing entity that ultimately accepts this liability, then who does?" The Vancouver Sun quoted the minister as saying. “Because you could very well have a proponent that injected the carbon, met all of the standards, but over time, after that ceased to exist, got maybe bought out, a whole bunch of different things that down the road, over many, many years there would not be a recourse.”

The bill is expected to pass in the current session, and it lays out rules for four large-scale CCS projects in the province to which Alberta committed C$2 billion in 2008. About C$440 million are expected to be spent on these projects in the next three years.

Critics of the bill, such as David Swann, leader of the Opposition Alberta Liberals, say that the government will need to work out details such as how long a site must be monitored before it could be considered safe for the province to assume liability. "This is not completely-understood technology," Swann told CBCnews on Tuesday. "The liability could be huge. It’s not clear yet just how much damage the leaks could create."

Sources: POWERnews, Alberta Energy Ministry, The Vancouver Sun, CBCnews

Key CCS Project Shelved in The Netherlands

The Dutch government last week shelved a key project by Royal Dutch Shell that proposed to sequester carbon dioxide underground near Barendrecht. The decision was made in response to a three-year delay in obtaining permits as well as heated local opposition.

Economy, Agriculture and Innovation Minister Maxime Verhagen on Thursday said that the country would continue to support carbon capture and storage efforts. The Netherlands has plans to bury 30 million tons of CO2 by 2030 and is spending about €750 million in three years on CO2 reduction.

Shell had proposed to pipe CO2 produced as a by-product of hydrogen production from its Pernis refinery—Europe’s biggest refinery—to Barendrecht. The gas was then to be injected into two depleted gas fields for permanent storage. Shell said that if successful, the project would move from injection in the small Barendrecht field, which has capacity to store 800,000 metric tons of CO2 at 1,700 meters, to a larger field at Ziedewij, which is 2,700 meters deep and could store 9.5 million metric tons of CO2. Injection would have begun at the end of 2012.

Residents of Barendrecht, wary of the project’s experimental nature, decried its potential effect on property values and on the environment. Shell noted that the project, initiated in 2007, had increasingly received negative media coverage since February 2008, and though even the Dutch parliament had approved the project despite mounting local opposition, it “understood” the government’s decision.

In a June 2010 document, the company said that several lessons had been learned from the project. Foremost among them was that the government should “build national political consensus and support for CCS before announcing the first real CCS project.” The government should also have a singe ministry orchestrating CCS rollout, and it should engage and involve key public opinion makers early in the process. Finally, the company said, it was critical not to “underestimate the complexities of local and governmental politics.”

Sources: Shell, POWERnews

Field Tests Suggest Carbon Storage Possible in Lignite Seams

A DOE-sponsored field test demonstrated that opportunities to permanently store carbon in unmineable seams of lignite might be more widespread than documented. According to the Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, the test in Burke County, N.D., demonstrated that 90 tons of carbon dioxide injected into a 1,100-foot-deep coal seam (10 to 12 feet thick) did not significantly move away from the wellbore. PCOR, one of the DOE’s seven regional carbon sequestration partners, said that the greenhouse gas was contained within the coal seam for the duration of a three-month-long monitoring period that started in March 2009.

The results are not expected to change initial regional storage capacity estimates of nearly 600 million tons for lignites in the U.S. portion of the Williston Basin, but they do suggest that suitable lignite seams are potential targets for CCS. The successful injection and storage of CO2 in the PCOR test opens the door for the conduct of similar CO2 injection tests at a larger scale and longer duration to confirm an optimal injection regime, investigate the economics of this carbon storage option, and adapt monitoring tools.

The study also investigated the feasibility of combining CO2 storage with enhanced methane production. The partnership found that when CO2 comes in contact with coal, including low-rank coals like lignite, the CO2 molecules physically attach to the coal. In many cases, the CO2 displaces methane, the primary component of natural gas, making it easier to recover.

Source: DOE

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