The potential to increase imports of hydrocarbons from Canada remains attractive. One resource of current interest is the heavy oil typically referred to as the ‘oil sands’ in Alberta. The transport of these oils for upgrading (refining) is being considered via the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, linking Alberta with east Texas.
Environmental aspects of heavy crude production, transportation, and refining have been discussed in Congress and the media, with the current U.S. administration indicating that approval of the pipeline would only come if it would not ‘significantly exacerbate’ associated greenhouse gas emissions. Debate in Canada related to the production of heavy crude resulted inShell’s Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project associated with production in Alberta.
Large-scale replication of a Quest-type project in the Port Arthur region could integrate the interests of a wide variety of stakeholders in CO2 emissions:
INDUSTRY: refiners and exporters (oil, liquid natural gas); STATE GOVERNMENT: Texas General Land Office, Texas Railroad Commission; FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory; and ACADEMIC RESEARCH: State research institutions including the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT-Austin; Gulf Coast Carbon Center at the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology; Local institutions including Lamar University Commercialization & Innovation Center Entrepreneurship (CICE). Continue reading →
Many nations recognize that immense potential for geologic storage of carbon dioxide exists in subsea sites on the continental shelf. Indeed, every continent in the world is bordered by passive marine margins suitable for storage. The geology does not stop at the shoreline, and the deep subsurface of those offshore margins is highly suitable for storage. An added attraction of offshore storage is co-location of carbon sources and sinks, as most large industrial emissions sources occur in coastal regions. Compared to onshore sites, which are owned by private entities, offshore territories are controlled by government gencies, thus simplifying regulation and permitting. In addition, potential risks to shallow sources of drinking water and human health and safety are reduced in offshore settings. Such benefits have the potential to resonate with many nations, in particular, industrialized countries that must participate in climate change mitigation for any meaningful impact to occur.
But, working in an offshore environment presents challenges. Costs of siting, development, and monitoring are not insignificant, and regulation of risk and liability may not be well established in all nations. Continue reading →
A lot of work has been done on designing monitoring programs for carbon capture and storage sites. All of the regulations, very properly, say that monitoring should be site-specific. But the details of how a regulator and an operator determine what is site-specific have not been fully explored. This creates uncertainty. What the site-specific phrase means to a regulator may not match up with what the site-specific phrase means to a site developer.
At the Gulf Coast Carbon Center, we have considered the ways that monitoring tools interact with sites. In this context, we have found it useful to think of these tools as traps for catching carbon dioxide leaks. Leakage from a well-characterized storage reservoir is not expected, however even from a site for which the characterization is excellent, some uncertainty remains. Stakeholders, such as regulators, capture industries, project financiers, or the public may find such uncertainty unacceptable. To borrow an analogy from a business whose entire goal is the elimination of the unacceptable: You can’t catch a mouse with a squirrel trap. You also won’t catch a mouse in a lake in the winter. You have to set the right kind of trap, in the right place, at the right time to determine if you do or do not have mice.
We explore how to set the right trap to catch leakage using four common tools as examples. Continue reading →