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

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:

Comments

Neil

P.S. advocating cleaner use of the planet does not necessarily mean advocating that we all live like the Amish. It means using a toilet instead of crapping on the living room floor.

jwogdn

What we should be looking for is a use for the co2.

I.E.

Terra preta is not a use for co2 but for the carbon left behind from a non-co2 producing burn. If it proves to valuable enough it could help to reduce net co2 entering the atmosphere.

jwogdn

Another use for CO2 might be where CO2 is the limiting factor to plant growth.


Joseph


Use the CO2 to fuel Algea ponds that produce Biodiesel.

Kevin

My only problem with CCS is that it sounds like the sort of thing that the US government can invest billions in, while avoiding spending money on R&D to improve the efficiency of energy systems we already have. My reason for thinking this, is that if we go on making big inefficient cars that burn lots of energy (crude oil until the last drop then ethanol from corn) the lobbying groups and big business interests will be happy.

richard schumacher

The point is, it is enormously easier and cheaper to dispose of all nuclear power plant waste than it would be to dispose of meaningful amounts of CO2 for the forseeable future, simply because of the enormous difference in the volume and mass of material involved. Re-processing, breeders, and burning of short half-life material in accelerators will reduce the amount of nuclear waste by another factor of ten.

The day that the West Antarctic ice sheet starts to slide off into the sea will be too late. We need to start replacing coal-fired power plants with nuclear plants, worldwide, now.

Ender

Richard - "The day that the West Antarctic ice sheet starts to slide off into the sea will be too late. We need to start replacing coal-fired power plants with nuclear plants, worldwide, now."

In my opinion doing this is just setting us up for the next problem - nuclear waste and nuclear weapons. Why not take the time now to fix the structural problems that lead us to need so much energy that we need to build all these plants.

Why not make it again fashionable to do more with less instead of just enabling us to increase consumption. Why not start with energy efficiency so we can have most of what we have now while using vastly less energy.

While the Amish and the like are extremists they do have some virtues that we seem to have forgotton. While not wanting to emulate their lifestyle, living within your means is not such a crazy idea. Really, living on the edge consuming as much as we do is pretty crazy - its just that everybody does it that it seems sane.

James White

CO2 does not have to be buried deep underground. Converting CO2 to cellulose (plant lîfe) and then into charcoal it can be added to the soils to enhance more plant growth. jwogdn touched on this when he mentioned terra preta soils found in the Amazon. Scientists have found that the charcoal has been in the soil for thousands of years.

James White

CO2 does not have to be buried deep underground. Converting CO2 to cellulose (plant lîfe) and then into charcoal it can be added to the soils to enhance more plant growth. jwogdn touched on this when he mentioned terra preta soils found in the Amazon. Scientists have found that the charcoal has been in the soil for thousands of years.

Paul Dietz

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

Your position is internally inconsistent. It would actually be cheaper and easier -- and no less safe -- to indefinitely store spent nuclear fuel on the surface, in armored sealed casks, rather than burying it. So why do you support the more expensive approach even as the project admittedly disgusts you?

K

Change 'support' to 'supported' to explain my disgust. Billions were spent and nothing stored. But that was before I realized the federal government had evolved and no longer intends to achieve, only to spend.

My support was for a single site storage solution. The federal government would select a site, select a good method, and execute it. I didn't care if that good method was burial, surface encapsulation, or farting.

I welcome technical programs that actually solve problems.

I think we still spend a billion or so a year at YM. Just because there is no prospect of doing anything, heaven forbid that a government project should close and lay off people.

My understanding was that Yucca Mountain would encapsulate, then store in tunnels. Not bury.

Paul Dietz

My understanding was that Yucca Mountain would encapsulate, then store in tunnels. Not bury.

The tunnels would be backfilled at some point, which counts as burial in my book.

rickthurman

The NatCarb Atlas is a great resource, but not for the reasons given:

1. The list of CO2 fixed-site sources will turn out to be a list of places to retrofit "algae-photobioreactors" to convert CO2 into biofuels (see Greencarcongress listings for algae, biodiesel);

2. The list of sequestration sites is a beginning list of regions where Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) sites could be either retrofitted to existing thermal-electric power-stations, or new power plants could be built to take advantage of the formations below. CAES could be the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle needed to turn wind and other intermittent renewable electric sources into dispatchable sources.

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy06osti/38270.pdf

The link above is to "Improving the technical, environmental and social performance of wind energy systems using biomass-based energy storage" by Paul Denholm. It outlines a strategy of building CAES plants up and down a transmission line to take power from high-wind regions to large cities, using farm-grown biomass along the transmission route to fire the CAES plants (they do require some heat, but only one-third that of traditional thermal-electric plants -- the other two-thirds of the generating power is provided by the compressed air). The point is to both guarantee a stable local source of carbon-neutral fuel, and to give the local landowners a stable market for a crop directly tied to the existence of the long-distance transmission line -- so the project is more stable both logistically AND politically, not a minor consideration.

The best solutions to energy independence, peak oil/ resource depletion, greenhouse gases, and ending our over-use of natural biomass (AKA the "Sixth Extinction") will involve making wind, wave and PV power storable, plus intensive use of the most productive forms of biomass (so far, that looks like algae) -- and ideally, we could look for ways to grow that algae (or whatever turns out to be even more space-productive than algae) in areas that aren't currently very active biologically. As far as I can tell, there are three types of areas available that aren't biologically very active: deserts, icecaps/mountain ranges... and the middle of the oceans. The middle of the oceans are biological deserts. Figure out how to grow algae intensively in aquaculture-installations in the middle of the oceans -- possibly in barges that simply float with the currents in a big circle -- and we could open up millions of square miles of the high seas to really productive use. The most-cited estimate is that the US could probably replace all the diesel it currently consumes with 15,000 square miles of algae-ponds, etc. Algae aquaculture at sea could probably give us a carbon-neutral channel for biofuels in volumes great enough to supply the whole planet at first-world consumption levels.

The resources detailed in the CO2 storage atlas should be seen as a necessary first step toward this ideal goal of storable electric reserve on land, and CO2-fertilized algae on both land and sea.

A good starting point on algae-aquaculture for oil/biodiesel is www.oilgae.com .

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