By Jeryl L. Olson and Eric E. Boyd

The Department of Energy announced on November 16 that the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP), one of seven public/private carbon sequestration partnerships throughout the country, had completed an analysis of the capacity of the region to permanently store carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  DOE Announcement  The analysis indicates that the region (which comprises Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) has a total CO2 storage capacity of 245.5 billion metric tons.  Currently, large stationary sources of CO2 emissions in the region, such as power and industrial plants, account for 700 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, or roughly half of all CO2 emissions in the region.  The new report demonstrates, therefore, that capacity exists to permanently store CO2 emissions from these sources for hundreds of years.

The MRCSP report was the second part of a multi-phase analysis.  Phase I consisted of identifying large CO2 emitters and characterizing CO2 storage options.  Phase II consisted of seven field validation tests:  three geologic injection tests, one in each of the three major geologic formations in the region (the Michigan Basin, the Appalachian Basin, and the Cincinnati Arch), and four terrestrial field tests (croplands, reclaimed minelands, reclaimed marshlands, and forested wetlands).  Significantly, the Phase II report concluded that using CO2 for enhanced oil and gas production and enhanced coalbed methane recovery could generate significant revenue to help offset the cost of deploying CO2 capture and sequestration technologies.  The goals of Phase III, yet to be completed, include conducting a larger volume CO2 injection and monitoring test into a geologic reservoir and continuing to assess CO2 storage and utilization opportunities in the region.

With these developments, CO2 capture and sequestration moves a step closer to being another option to manage CO2 emissions associated with climate change.  The DOE press release announcing the MRCSP report explained, “Establishing the safe, permanent and environmentally sound storage of CO2 is a key element in moving toward the commercial deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology, which many experts view as a crucial option in helping meet the climate change challenge.”  As the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with proposals for developing New Source Performance Standards and PSD Best Available Control Technology (BACT) guidance for major sources emitting CO2 and other green house gases, developments in CCUS capacity and technology are clearly something to watch.

These developments are particularly important for the Midwest, the home of significant coal deposits and coal-fired electric utilities.  Although many Midwest states, including Illinois, have developed renewable portfolio standards ( Illinois RMP ), which require utilities to increase the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, coal will continue to play a large role in energy production in the Midwest for years to come.  In addition to the MRCSP, the Midwest Geologic Sequestration Consortium (MGSC), another regional sequestration partnership comprising portions of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, is conducting its own ongoing CO2 geologic sequestration project.