Carbon Capture Rules Advance

The prospect of commercial-scale carbon sequestration took another step forward this summer.

On July 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule that regulates carbon dioxide injection for long-term sequestration under the Safe Drinking Water Act through the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.

EPA has been !! APRIL WASHINGTON/POLICY WATCH !! working for more than a year !! APRIL WASHINGTON/POLICY WATCH !! on a regulatory regime to handle carbon dioxide injection for long-term geologic sequestration.

The proposal does not modify existing regulations of carbon dioxide injection for enhanced oil and natural gas recovery, nor does it regulate carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

It does create a Class VI well category under the UIC program for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Building on its long-standing UIC experience, EPA’s rule covers issues ranging from siting, area of review, well construction and operation to mechanical integrity testing, monitoring, well plugging and post-injection site care.

To be sure, technical hurdles loom:

  • The cost of capturing CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gas remains high.
  • Ongoing pilot-scale demonstration projects around the nation are testing the technical feasibility of injecting large volumes of CO2 into the subsurface through a small number of wells.
  • Public acceptance of such large-scale injection is untested.

In announcing the proposal EPA also has invited public comments.

Wanted: Expert Opinions

An important factor in gaining public acceptance for large-scale geologic sequestration is a regulatory framework that provides a level of assurance that this can be done safely.

But it is a balancing act:

  • Too much regulation will trip up companies from the outset as they launch sequestration operations.
  • Too little regulation and those same operations will drown in a sea of litigation.

Thus, it is important to get this right by soliciting input from the experts.

EPA is accepting that input through Nov. 24. For information on how to submit comments, visit the GEO-DC Action Alert Web page.

Rebecca Dodge, president of the Division of Environmental Geosciences, also has alerted DEG committees and members to this request for public comment.

This is an opportunity for AAPG members. No other profession has experience handling and injecting large volumes of carbon dioxide into the subsurface. As such, the deployment of commercial-scale carbon sequestration as a viable clean-coal technology rests on our shoulders.

Offering our scientific knowledge and experience to ensure adequate regulation of carbon sequestration operations should further boost public confidence that it can be done safely.

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