DOE grants $44M in CO2 storage research

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy yesterday announced it would direct $44 million towards research into carbon storage, part of the agency's initiative to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels.
  • DOE selected 16 storage projects to receive the funds, aiming to address research gaps that get in the way fo carbon capture development.
  • Among the projects selected for funding, the Electric Power Research Institute will receive almost $1 million to conduct an initial assessment of challenges to development of a commercial-scale CO2 storage complex in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California.

Dive Insight:

Despite the rapid shift towards carbon-free energy, fossil fuels will still be needed for decades and interest in capture and storage is growing. DOE's Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) initiative, which seeks to mitigate the impacts of that generation, will direct funding across two phases to help develop new technologies.

“CCS will play a very important role as the world moves toward a lower-carbon economy,” DOE Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr said in a statement. “The funding announced today through the CarbonSAFE initiative will help to address technical barriers to commercial-scale carbon storage as worldwide demand for these types of clean energy solutions continues to rise.”

Among the broad goals of the initiative is to identify and remove barrier to the development of commercial-scale geologic storage sites for CO2 from industrial sources. According to DOE, those sources, including cement and iron and steel production, currently account for an estimated 21% of U.S. carbon emissions.

The funding also builds on efforts by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy to remove barriers for large-scale storage through regional partnerships.

In the first phase of funding, 13 projects were selected for more than $15 million in funding. Projects in that phase will provide a pre‑feasibility study for a commercial-scale geological storage site. The projects will develop a plan encompassing technical requirements, as well as both economic feasibility and public acceptance of an eventual storage project. 

DOE also tapped three projects for the funding's second phase of more than $29 million. Those projects will perform the "initial characterization of a storage complex identified as having high potential," DOE said. "They will also establish the complex’s feasibility for commercial storage (50+ million metric tons CO2). These selected projects did not require the same pre-feasibility work needed in Phase I projects and demonstrated readiness to move on to the next phase."

Researchers have long been searching for new and innovative ways to store captured carbon. Scientists working on the Wallula Basalt Pilot Project in Washington state have developed a method of storing carbon underground in mineral form, making it impossible for escape. The project has successfully injected CO2 into underground lava flows, with the gas then solidifying into a mineral called ankerite in just a couple of years.

Last month, 10 of the largest oil and gas companies in the world announced a 10-year, $1 billion effort to reduce emissions, largely focused on carbon capture and storage technologies.

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