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New Atlas Details More Than 3.5 Trillion Tons of Possible CO2 Storage Capacity in US and Canada

31 March 2007

Doe_cosources_nov3
Primary sources of stationary CO2 emissions in the US and Canada. The color of the dots indicates the type of source, the diameter, the magnitude of emissions release. Click to enlarge.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships have identified carbon storage capacity in the US and Canada of more than 3.5 trillion tons. That’s approximately 900 years of storage for stationary CO2 emissions generated at today’s rate of 3.8 billion tons per year.

The results are detailed in the new Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada, which is available online.

US emissions of CO2 from such stationary sources in 2004 were approximately 3.4 billion tons. Another 2.5 billion tons came from small sources not subject to capture, including transportation.

Sinks
Different types of available sinks. Click to enlarge.

Created by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Atlas was developed jointly with the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships, and the National Carbon Sequestration Database and Geographical Information System (NATCARB).  Its main purposes are to:

  • Provide an overview of the lifecycle of CO2 through the capture and sequestration processes.

  • Summarize the DOE’s activities in sequestration research and development.

  • Present information about the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships' activities.

Emissions of CO2 have increased from an insignificant level two centuries ago to more than 30 billion tons worldwide today.  If no effort is made to reduce CO2 emissions, yearly release from the United States could increase by one third from 2005 to 2030, according to DOE.

The Office of Fossil Energy supports a number of carbon sequestration initiatives including a vigorous research and technology development program. The atlas will aid these efforts by providing maps and information at both national and regional levels, including:

  • CO2 stationary emission sites, such as powerplants, refineries, and other fossil-fuel-consuming industries.

  • Geologic formations suitable for permanent CO2 sequestration.

  • Capacity estimates of CO2 storage in these various geologic formations.

DOE formed the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership program, which draws from seven distinct regions in the United States and Canada, in 2003 as a response to the geographic differences in fossil fuel use and sequestration potential.  Funded through the National Energy technology Laboratory (NETL), the program consists of government agencies, universities, and private companies—more than 400 organizations, including 40 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and 3 Indian Nations.

The atlas is being published in both static and interactive versions.  The interactive version, a frequently updated resource, is located at the NATCARB website.  The NATCARB project is funded by NETL and maintained by the University of Kansas Geologic Survey; project data is maintained and enhanced locally at the Regional Partnership level.

The static version of the Atlas is available for viewing and is downloadable today at the NETL web site.  The same information will be available in printed form in May 2007.  Both versions will be updated every two years.

Resources:

March 31, 2007 in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack (1)

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Comments

This could be as useful as Blackbeard the Pirate's Buried Treasure Map unless the process can be shown to be viable. There has to be suitable economic incentives (read carbon caps)in place plus evidence that the CO2 stays put. The main villain coal based emissions may be a long way from suitable storage sites. If this is as good as supporters claim we just want to see one demonstration plant that can work without unusual geology or special financial arrangements. Otherwise I see this is as a stalling tactic.

I'm with Aussie on this. I've always been highly suspicious of CCS schemes for the reasons A mentions, particularly the business about whether the CO2 stays put.

Increasingly, we're dealing with the complexities of storing Nasty Stuff essentially forever, e.g. nuclear waste and CO2. Given the serial screwups we see in nuclear waste management, I have very little confidence that we can make CCS work in any meaningful sense of that word.

And no, I don't know what the right answer/mix of answers is. I do, however, get nervous when I see talk of betting so much on something that's so unlikely (in my opinion) to work on the scale needed.


CO2 isn't all that nasty.  If we were releasing it at about 10% of our current rate, things would be all right.  If we stuff away CO2 for 50 years and it leaks out again over 500, it will probably be just a local problem.

I wonder why Nuclear Waste must be stored with Zero Chance of accidental or malicious release for >10,000 years with billions of dollars in studies, for a volume of material probably .00001% of what CO2 is being considered. So a big bubble of CO2 gets released due to a earthquake in 200 years underneath a city of a million people which has been built there, and you have a million dead people.

World CO2 emissions now exceed six billion tons annually, roughly 2500 cubic miles of gas at standard pressure and room temperature. In contrast all of the high-level nuclear power waste created to date would fit inside one large building. Future generations will think we were insane to be screwing around with CO2 sequestration.

Hey Richard, look on the bright side, I'm told CO2 Asphyxiation is a pleasant death. Check out:

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/2005/05_06_02.html

Each molecule of CO2 is one carbon, two oxygen atoms. Does it really make sense to be taking large amounts of oxygen from the atmosphere and locking it away deep underground?

Large amounts of tons, tiny fraction of the total.  Converting 100 ppm of the atmosphere from O2 to CO2 and putting it underground would reduce the oxygen content by 0.01%.

Aussie:

I strongly suspect that coal-fired power plants with CO2 sequestration will loose economically to corn-fermented hydrogen burned in internal combustion engines to generate electricity for electrolysis of water to produce fuel for fuel cell vehicles.

Certainly society needs to be protected from nuclear waste but this is not that difficult. Yucca mountain, despite its political difficulties, is a spectacular example of engineering convservatism.
The natural reactors at Oklo in Gabon ran for hundreds of thousands of years. The fission fragments and transuranics have stayed put for over a billion years. Essentially, the only fission fragments that are missing are the gaseous ones.

Natural gas deposits have stayed put for millenia, why is it so hard to believe that co2 would do the same?If we are going to demand a solution I think rejecting every proposed solution in a nanosecond is counterproductive.
I think releasing this map is part of trying to find a way towards some type of cap and trade system.Many big power producers and others are now asking the gov to develop a system.They need predictability to be able to finance their operations.Lenders are reticent to fund new plants unless the regs for the next 20+ years are spelled out.
If the regs call for capture they can build the more expensive tech and pass the cost on to us.Capture can be done if you will pay for it.Pols are gauging whether or not constituents will scream bloody murder when the power bill shoots up.
Coal states are trying to get ctl going without being accused of giving the Earth a fever.they are looking to legislate capture so they can generate economic activity in depressed areas of their states.Look for them to enact a floor price for oil to gaurantee viability of ctl,ethanol etc.They want to sell the voters on capture,caps,floor pricing in a way that doesnt endanger their reelection.

CO2 is plant food in New England and we'll take all you have to offer.

The bio-mass in the Northern New England forest is growing at a rate of 2-3% over current rates of consumption.

Both Global Warming and the excess of CO2 have been major factors in giving us this huge energy 'reserve'.

I and others are planning to tap into it with gassifiers, and when the enzyme scene settles down and become less proprietary, perhaps brewing up Jet bio fuels for the new generation of low Emission Aircraft(LEA's).

For the CO2 zealots; wood chip gasifiers are largely closed loop operations and it is easy to scrub out CO2 from emissions.

Since I don't believe in the CO2 theory of global warming--way to many contrary theories including increased solar radiation and the interference of the water vapour in Jet contrails with radiative forcing; I have mixed emotions about gettin into the carbon trading schemes like REGI.

In any case, my bio-refineries will be as green as it gets and utilize green 'waste' and low value feedstock to make a mid range BTU natural gas in a gassifier with well controlled output of gases and solids.

This is the easy part.

The hard part is getting a 'village' transportation system that is friendly to Alt. Fuel vehicles and runs in winter.

We a potential 'beta' site in Brunswick Naval Air Station, now in the process of closing.

If any of you have developed or planned alt. fuel vehicle systems, golf cart trails in Georgia, college campuses, please contact me since I'm involved in planning a workshop for this summer.

CO2 is plant food in New England and we'll take all you have to offer.

The bio-mass in the Northern New England forest is growing at a rate of 2-3% over current rates of consumption.

Both Global Warming and the excess of CO2 have been major factors in giving us this huge energy 'reserve'.

I and others are planning to tap into it with gassifiers, and when the enzyme scene settles down and become less proprietary, perhaps brewing up Jet bio fuels for the new generation of low Emission Aircraft(LEA's).

For the CO2 zealots; wood chip gasifiers are largely closed loop operations and it is easy to scrub out CO2 from emissions.

Since I don't believe in the CO2 theory of global warming--way to many contrary theories including increased solar radiation and the interference of the water vapour in Jet contrails with radiative forcing; I have mixed emotions about gettin into the carbon trading schemes like REGI.

In any case, my bio-refineries will be as green as it gets and utilize green 'waste' and low value feedstock to make a mid range BTU natural gas in a gassifier with well controlled output of gases and solids.

This is the easy part.

The hard part is getting a 'village' transportation system that is friendly to Alt. Fuel vehicles and runs in winter.

We a potential 'beta' site in Brunswick Naval Air Station, now in the process of closing.

If any of you have developed or planned alt. fuel vehicle systems, golf cart trails in Georgia, college campuses, please contact me since I'm involved in planning a workshop for this summer.

Everytime I see the stats on how much CO2 can be sequestered I am amazed all over again. The obvious problems are capturing CO2 relatively free of other gases, the cost of lines to move it, and the cost to compress it. And the first seems the worst.

I will also guarantee that environmental concerns will stop any scheme, however sensible, in the US. The chances of a CO2 release killing many people is zero. Maybe a worker near a failing well or pipe would die. It would be a safer job than the late shift at 7-11.

The sequestered C02 will be deep and the pressure relatively low. There will be no blast like a volcano or a sudden massive release.

There are many reasons to ease off fossil and carbon base fuels.. But they are here and will be here for quite some time. The choice is to improve or whine.

The second sentence (above) by Earl has it right - don't reject proposed decisions in a nanosecond just because some nonperfection may be argued.

k,

There were 1700 people killed by a natural release of CO2 from Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986. CO2 is a sufficant and is heavier than air. It can be quite dangerous when concentrated. Any CO2 sequester system needs to be carefully engineered.

K and Earl, nobody is writing off CO2 sequestration in a nanosecond, certainly I agree it is feasible and needs to be considered, CAREFULLY. The point of the argument is the double standard when it comes to nuclear waste, by the criteria that natural gas has been there for millions of years, apply that to nuclear, drill a hole any old place in hard rock that has been there for millions of years, dump the nuclear waste in, seal it with concrete, problem solved.

Natural gas does occasionally get released in earth movements or venting and being lighter than air, dissipates harmlessly into the atmosphere. CO2 however being heavier than air, settles on the ground until dissipated by wind & diffusion.

Another option with CO2 is to combine it with water & surplus or remote power to produce liquid fuels, namely methanol & ethanol. Also possibly algae will produce a biodiesel using waste CO2. Liquefied CO2 could be shipped to Iceland, which has huge geothermal power resources, and shipped back in the same tanker as methanol.

Bill:

Yes CO2 natural releases sometimes occur. They occur from unknown gas pockets - empty spaces - near the surface. And occasionally industrial drilling hits a bubble and events become unfortunate for nearby workers.

Nothing faintly like those natural formations is being proposed. To say that something needs to be carefully engineered is a straw man. Who says otherwise?

Warren: The article is about sequestering. If you insist the point is the double standard re: nuclear then do so. That isn't the point to me.

By the way, I support the Yucca Mountain approach and am disgusted by the waste of tens for billions to store nothing.

Global warming, nuclear power, or any technology goes against the Greens (Marxist) belief systems. In their view, everyone would be better off if we all just went back the Amish way of life. How come the greens don’t care about the poor people of Asia and Africa because they don’t have any money to give to the Greens to fight for their cause?

Nuclear power can be a clean and safe way to provide cheap power to the nation, but we could continue to use coal based power with CO2 sequestration if that’s the still the lowest cost power to produce. GW has started funding for nuclear waste recycling (as already done in the France) here in the USA. The end result wound is more fuel available for future n-plants and nuclear waste reduction as well. If natural gas can stay under ground without any problems then CO2 sequestration should have the same results.

K, the point is about sequestration, and the degree of safety that will be required. I'm not saying that the method will not be engineered, what I am saying is logic dictates a similar level of safety of storage be built into each site as has been demanded of nuclear storage. It may be easy to select an individual site with .01% chance of significant release in 100 years, and this is a trivial problem for nuclear waste. How about .00001% chance of significant release at any of the thousands of sites for the next 10,000 years, which is more like is required for nuclear waste (only one site required).

Richard - "World CO2 emissions now exceed six billion tons annually, roughly 2500 cubic miles of gas at standard pressure and room temperature. In contrast all of the high-level nuclear power waste created to date would fit inside one large building. Future generations will think we were insane to be screwing around with CO2 sequestration."

I think future generations will think we are insane for doing either of these things when we have the solution for energy generation without nuclear or CO2 waste to bury somewhere to become EP's 500 year 'local' problem. It may be OK now to write it off as such however, the 'locals' of the time might not regard it so benignly.

To embrace zero emission technology we need to change and this is what is unpalatable to us Western people that want to keep all our wasteful luxuries. The problem is not really energy, as there is plenty of zero emission energy, but our attitude that our lifestyles are not negotiable or the attitude that we cannot have our present lifestyles without coal or nuclear.

As someone who thinks we can do it all without either coal or nuclear (though nuclear sure would help), you know where I stand.

I also think that we're going to have to do some things during the transition that we wouldn't do if we were starting from scratch.  C'est la guerre.

EP - that article is extremely interesting. Makes a bit of a mockery of the argument that we have to have coal and nuclear. I would just like to add that energy efficiency gains could make the whole job a lot easier by lowering the target that you have to replace.

Warren:

CO2 and nuclear sequestration are totally different subjects. It may seem plausible to try and link them but it is not. One involves massive volume, nontoxic with low danger, the other has highly dangerous material, trivial volume, and should be kept from mischevious hands.

By linking CO2 discussions to nuclear you merely help those who try to impede a solution to either problem.

Doctors do not insist on discussing TB while inserting heart valves? To do so is simply meaningless and confusing.

Do you really advocate treating CO2 like nuclear material?

Nuclear sequestration has been stopped in the US by setting impossible technical standards and kowtowing to political interference and voodoo science. I don't like it, but it is fact and may not change.

What you will do by insisting on equal consideration will be to stop CO2 sequestration. It will not change nuclear standards. Then we have two non-solutions instead of one.

Maybe ".00001% chance of significant release at any of the thousands of sites for the next 10,000 years" is what you want for CO2. I don't. It will mean that nothing is done.

Can we do it without coal and nuclear? It doesnt matter because we wont.Political reality must interfere with wishes.Tell the coal states you are going to eliminate tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars and then show me how You will sell the idea to them.
Assuming Ender is correct that there is plenty of zero emission energy availlable,it is negated in his next point in that our "lifestyles are not negotiable".At least not to the point where the no coal, no nuclear,stricly green answers can be sold to the general public.Including many of those who say they want to save the planet.If it cant be sold to the public and their lobbyists{congress} then you must pursue an efficacious policy that can be sold.

OttoV: There are lots of shades of green. Green has nothing to do with Red (Marxist) or any other color for that matter. Green is an issue, not a political direction. Personally I'm in the center (for a Canadian) but I still understand that I must live on this planet. There are right wing greens too. People that believe that God gave us a planet to look after and that we aren't doing a very good job of it.

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