Now an infant industry, carbon capture will play a significant role in achieving President Biden’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, said administration officials on Thursday. Senators from coal and gas states said the administration, after including incentives in the 2022 climate law, should unleash carbon capture projects.
There were 169 pending applications for permits to inject carbon dioxide underground, “and not one approval has been made by the Biden administration,” said Senate Energy Committee chair Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “The clock is ticking to deploy this technology and build out the infrastructure to do so.”
Manchin and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the senior Republican on the committee, said the EPA should give states the authority — “primacy,” in regulatory terms — to approve carbon injection wells after assuring they would not contaminate water supplies. They said that although coal- and gas-fired electric power plants are facing requirements to reduce emissions, carbon capture systems are not available, a situation that could cause some plants to shut down. “Instead of elimination, we should promote innovation,” said Barrasso.
Separately, EPA administrator Michael Regan announced the allocation of $48.25 million among 25 states and tribes that are interested in running so-called Class VI programs to oversee carbon injection wells. North Dakota and Wyoming hold primacy already. Louisiana has applied for it. Texas, West Virginia, and Arizona are in a pre-application phase. The EPA handles Class VI applications if a state does not have primacy.
“Despite the progress of recent years, there remains an enormous gap between the current levels of carbon management deployment and levels required to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Energy Department assistant secretary Brad Crabtree at the Senate Energy Committee hearing. Said EPA official Bruno Pigott, “Carbon capture utilization and storage will be central to achieving those goals.”
The United States is a global leader in carbon capture, with 5,000 miles of pipelines and 13 operating commercial-scale carbon capture projects that collectively capture, transport, and store 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, said Crabtree. Worldwide, there were 30 commercial-scale carbon capture projects in 2022, handling emissions from an array of industries, including ethanol, fertilizer, steel, power generation, and chemicals and fuels.
Nearly 200 U.S. carbon capture projects have been proposed since enactment of the 2022 climate law, which expanded tax credits for carbon capture and storage. Navigator CO2 canceled its midwestern pipeline two weeks ago in the face of landowner opposition and objections by state regulators. Two other projects have been proposed in the Midwest to gather carbon dioxide, mainly from ethanol plants, for injection thousands of feet underground.
Wyoming is about to issue three permits for carbon injection, said Lily Barkau of the state’s Department of Water Quality. The wells could be in operation within a year or two, she said. “We don’t have any to date that have been permitted.” Five applications were under review.
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy criticized “slow action” by the EPA on his state’s application for primacy. Pigott said a decision was expected in the near future, after the agency reviews thousands of public comments.
To read written testimony or to watch a video of the hearing, click here.