CARBON CAPTURE:

OMB reviewing regulations on underground CO2 storage

The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a proposed rule from U.S. EPA that would require carbon storage facilities to report their emissions, ensuring they are keeping the carbon dioxide they inject out of the atmosphere.

The rule, which was proposed in March and taken up for review Friday, supplements the greenhouse gas reporting rule finalized last year. It would not require the control of greenhouse gases, EPA says, but would allow the agency to gather information on the "efficacy" of carbon injection sites for long-term CO2 storage.

Carbon capture and storage has been touted as a key technology for the adaptation to climate change, extending the shelf life of plants that use cheaper but more carbon-intensive petroleum fuels. But if the technology is going to be useful, the gases pumped into underground rock formations will need to stay there.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced it would provide $1 billion in stimulus funding for the "FutureGen 2.0" pilot project. The project is intended to capture 90 percent of emissions from a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Ill., and sequester it underground at a storage site 140 miles east in Mattoon, Ill. (E&ENews PM, Aug. 5).

Under the rules proposed earlier this year, carbon storage sites and facilities using CO2 to enhance oil and gas recovery would need to begin tracking their greenhouse gas emissions in January 2011 and submit their first annual reports to EPA in March 2012.

"Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies for the clean energy future," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement upon signing the proposed rule. "Once we know where we must act, American innovators and entrepreneurs can develop new technologies to protect our atmosphere and fight climate change" (E&ENews PM, March 23).

EPA plans to finalize the rule by October, according to an agency database that tracks the rulemaking process.

Pilot projects

Another rule submitted to OMB on Friday would establish the requirements for a federal program that is processing permit applications for pilot and demonstration-scale carbon storage projects.

In 2008, EPA proposed amending the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate carbon injection facilities under the existing Underground Injection Control program. The goal is to prevent CO2 from leaking into underground water supplies.

If that were to happen, the CO2 could release contaminants such as arsenic, lead or organic compounds. It could also cause changes in regional groundwater flow and make groundwater saltier or more acidic, according to the proposed rule.

EPA predicted upon proposing the rule that the final regulations would not be released until the end of this year. That timeline has held up, according to EPA's rulemaking database.

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