From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (www.beg.utexas.edu).
For more information, please contact the author.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists Annual Meeting, Dallas, April 18-21, 2004

Just Do It! Large-Scale Storage of Greenhouse Gas in the United States and Abroad

S. Julio Friedmann and Susan D. Hovorka

Abstract:

We are entering a carbon-constrained world, and it is widely anticipated that in the United States and many countries abroad, a limitation or cost will be placed on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially carbon dioxide. Geological storage of carbon dioxide is likely to emerge as a critical technology pathway to GHG reduction. Our industry has effectively deployed this technology in the form of CO2 floods for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), and the only active large-scale anthropogenic CO2 storage projects are driven by industry needs (Sleipner and Weyburn). These projects are currently profitable. If cost for venting CO2 increases (e.g., a tax or cap and trade system), many marginal projects may become economic through the trading of storage credits on an open market. Such markets exist today in Europe, and a test market exists in the United States through the Chicago Climate Exchange. In addition, as the costs of CO2 capture decrease, many additional areas will become prospects for EOR. In the near term, however, Federal support is needed to incubate large-scale projects through field experiments and demonstration projects.

The essential tools for geological carbon storage come from the petroleum industry’s EOR practices, and we already know a great deal about the processes involved in safe CO2 shipping, handling, injection, and disposal. Carbon storage presents a potentially large new market for this geoscience and engineering expertise. The industry should use the knowledge it has at hand to help shape policy that will best serve both industrial and environmental goals. Rapid evolution of regulatory frameworks for engineering, monitoring, and long-term efficacy will allow industrial competitors to rapidly determine the economic viability of any potential project. Aggressive development of demonstration projects will improve the industry’s overall competitiveness and is worth pursuing as a risk-management strategy independent of any specific policy rubric (e.g., Kyoto).