State and Regional Control of Geological Carbon Sequestration (Part I)

Date01 April 2011
State and Regional
Control of
Geological Carbon
(Part I)
by Arnold W. Reitze Jr. and
Marie Bradshaw Durrant
Arnold W. Reitze Jr. is Professor of Law, S.J. Quinney
College of Law, University of Utah, and member of
the University of Utah’s Institute for Clean & Secure
Energy; J.B. and Maurice Shapiro Professor Emeritus of
Environmental Law, e George Washington University.
Marie Bradshaw Durrant is an attorney with Holland &
Hart in Salt Lake City and a former Legal Fellow with the
University of Utah Institute for Clean & Secure Energy.
Editors’ Summary
In the near futu re the use of coal may be legally rest ricted
due to concerns over the eects of its combustion on
atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Carbon cap-
ture and geologic sequestration oer one method to reduce
carbon emissions from coal and other hydrocarbon f uel.
While the federal government is providing increased fund-
ing for carbon capture and storage, congressional legisla-
tive eorts to limit carbon emissions have failed. However,
regional and state bodies have taken signicant actions
both to regulate carbon and to facilitate its capture and
storage, addressing the technical and lega l problems that
must be resolved in order to have a viable carbon storage
program. Several regional bodies have formed reg ulations
and model laws that aect carbon capture and storage, and
three bodies comprising 23 states have cap-and-trade pro-
grams in various stages of development. New state laws are
being enacted that encourage carbon storage, and existing
state laws aect the liability and viability of carbon storage
projects. A subsequent Article will examine specic legisla-
tion concerning carbon capture and storage, or the lack of
it, in 18 western states.
I. Carbon Storage
Carbon sequestration may be accomplished through either
storage in a geologic depository or by using a biologic
process in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from
the atmosphere by plants that store carbon.1 Biological
sequestration is a well-established and cost-eective way to
sequester carbon, but it is dicult to quantify the benets.
Geologic sequestration involves the separation of CO2 from
an exhaust gas strea m and compressing it, t ransporting it
to a suitable site, and injecting it into a deep underground
formation. It will be some time in the futu re before
sequestration in geologic formations is proven to be an
eective and economical way to reduce CO2 emissions
to t he at mosphere, but a major benet from developing
eective geologic sequestration is that America’s abun-
dant supply of coal could be uti lized without the adverse
environmenta l impacts associated with CO2 emissions.
However, there are risks from geologic seque stration t hat
have been identied, including changes in soil chemistry
that could harm the ecosystem, eects on water quality
due to acidication, eects of geologic stability, and the
1. It may also be possible to inject CO2 into soil, a process known as soil
carbon sequestration, to help reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations. See
Tripp Baltz, 
Wyoming, 40 E’ R. (BNA) 1709 (July 17, 2009).
   
         
 
Library, and to J.D. candidate Emily Lewis. is material is based
         
Disclaimer: is report was prepared as an account of work
sponsored by an agency of the U.S. government. Neither
the U.S. government nor any agency thereof nor any of their
employees, make any warranty, express or implied, or assumes
any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness,
or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process
disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately
owned rights. Reference herein to any specic commercial
product, process, or service by trade name, trademark,
manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or
imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S.
government or any agency thereof. e views and opinions of the
author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reect those of
the U.S. government or any agency thereof.
Copyright © 2011 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.
4-2011 NEWS & ANALYSIS 41 ELR 10349
tion Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants also have lower CO2
separation costs than conventional power plants because
the CO2 concentration is higher, therefore less energy is
required to remove a ton of CO2.8 An Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimates the cost
of carbon capture at 1.8 to 3.4 cents/kilowatt hour (kWh)
for a pulverized coal plant; 0.9 to 2.2 cents/kWh for a coal-
burning IGCC plant; and 1.2 to 2.4 cents/kWh for a natu-
ral gas combined-cycle power plant.9
After the CO2 is removed from the ex haust gas stream
at either a conventional or an IGCC facility, it must be
compressed to liquefy it for transport.10is reduces the
eciency of the electric generation process because of the
energy required to liquefy CO2. It is estimated that carbon
capture from a new IGCC plant would increase the cost
of electricity production by less than one-half the cost of
carbon capture from a new pulverized coal plant, in part
because it produces a higher concentration CO2 stream,
which lowers energy requirements for liquefying the CO2.11
But it is pulverized coal plants that generate 99% of the
electricity produced from burning coal.12 Carbon capture
from most conventional power plants that use pulverized
coal would require post-combustion capture using tech-
nologies such as chilled ammonia, which could increase
the cost of electricity by 59% according to a 2007 U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) report.13
CCS will dramatically increase the cost of energy. In
2009, DOE stated that CCS will increase the cost of elec-
tricity from a new pulverized coal plant by about 75% and
will increase the cost of electricity from a new advanced gas-
ication-based plant by about 35%.14 Overall CO2 storage
costs are estimated at $25 to $90 per metric ton, depending
on the source.15 DOE estimates that storage from an IGCC
facility will increase the average cost of electricity from 7.8
cents per kWh to 10.2 cents per kWh.16 A report prepared
at the University of Utah found the cost of carbon capture
to be about $40 per ton and underground storage costs
about $10 per ton, which would add 7.5 cents to the cost of
a kWh.17 is cost would be added to the average delivered
8. Id.
9. IPCC S R., supra note 2, at 341.
10. Id. at 22.
11. Id. at 18.
12. NETL, Carbon Sequestration: CO2 Capture,
technologies/carbon_seq/core_rd/co2capture.html (last visited Dec. 30,
13.        XVIII
C A R. (Inside EPA) 15:4 (July 26, 2007).
14. U.S. DOE, C C  S RD O, http://www. (last visited Dec.
15. IPCC S R., supra note 2.
16. NETL, supra note 12.
17. Stephen Sicilliano,  -
, 38 E’ R. (BNA) 2286 (Oct. 26, 2007).
potential for large releases that could harm or suocate
people and animals.2
After a brief discussion of the main components of CO2
storage (CO2 capture, transportation, storage, and long-
term liability), this A rticle explores major legal and policy
actions taken by regional and state bodies that will impact
CO2 storage. Federal control of geologic storage has been
covered in another publication.3
A. Carbon Capture
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) begins by separating
CO2 from other gases, which may be done before or after
fuel is combusted.4 Post-combustion capture involves con-
centrating t he exhaust gases into a stream of nearly pure
CO2, and then compressing it to convert it from gas to
a supercritical uid before it is transported to the injec-
tion site by pipeline. CO2 may be captured and seques-
tered from fossil-fueled power plants or from industrial
processes, including the production of hydrogen and other
chemicals, the production of substitute natural gas, a nd
the production of transportation fuel.
e majority of the costs of storage result from sepa-
rating and capturing CO2 from ue ga s.5 Carbon capture
from the ue gas of coal-burning power plants will be more
expensive than the carbon capture used by industrial pro-
cesses that involve more concentrated streams of CO2. e
low concentration of CO2 in conventional post-combustion
gas streams means that large volumes of ue gas must be
processed to remove their conventional pollutants, which
can limit the eectiveness of certain carbon c apture pro-
cesses. Conventional power plant CO2 emissions are about
13% to 15% by volume, which increases energy require-
ments needed to remove a given quantity of CO2 from the
gas stream compared to gas streams with higher concen-
trations of CO2.6 If the nitrogen in air is removed prior to
combustion, such as occurs in the oxyfuel process, the CO2
in the exhaust stream is concentrated, and it is less costly
to separate a given amount of the gas.7 Integrated Gasica-
2.  Storage, XVI C
A R (Inside EPA) 4:4 (Feb. 24, 2005). See also IPCC S R-
: C D C  S (Bert Metz et al. eds.,
2005), available at
maryforpolicymakers.pdf [hereinafter IPCC S R.].
3. Arnold W. Reitze Jr.,      
P E. L. R. (forthcoming 2011).
4. U.S. G A O (GAO), F A
W G A  V  C C  S
  K M O 10 (Sept. 2008) (GAO-08-1080) [hereinaf-
ter GAO].
5. See National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Technologies: Car-
bon Sequestration, (last
6. GAO, supra note 4, at 18.
7. O, Institue for Clean and Secure Energy, Univ. of Utah (2009).
Copyright © 2011 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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