Last year in this focus on CO2 applications, I (as others have) connected enhanced
oil recovery (EOR) as an enabling business foundation and a possible way forward
to accomplish carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a business investment. This year,
in an address to the CCS conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US Department of
Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy Charles McConnell encouraged the
CCS industry to help operators establish a salient business case between CO2 EOR and
usage and sequestration. Creating a technical lead in CO2 EOR and other usage technologies
establishes an opportunity to commercialize the technologies that could be
in high demand in the years to come, particularly in coal-reliant developing countries
such as China and India.

The technologies needed to accomplish carbon capture, utilization, and storage
(CCUS) require expertise in science and engineering that, in some cases, are not completely
matured or, at least, require a different focus and commitment in science and
business to affect CCUS. An acceptable return on investment will depend on economic
CO2 capture and largely on regulatory stability.

Administratively, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed a carbon
pollutions standard for new power plants, which will have to meet 1,000 lbm
of CO2 per electrical megawatt-hour produced. Older coal plants average approximately
1,768 lbm of CO2 per megawatt-hour but are exempt from the standard, as are
plants permitted to begin construction within a year. A typical natural-gas electricitygeneration
plant emits 800 to 860 lbm of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

Legislatively, the proposed US Senate Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 would
implement a credit system to reduce CO2 emissions. A study by the DOE and the Energy
Information Agency (EIA) to evaluate the effects of this policy concluded that virtually
no electrical generation will occur in 2035 from US coal plants that use CCUS
technology even though CCUS is awarded nearly a full credit under the proposed policy.
The policy predicts a significant shift in the long-term electricity-generation mix
in the US by 2035, with coal-fired generation falling to 54% below the reference-case
level. Combined heat and power generators fired by natural gas increase substantially
through 2020, and nuclear and nonhydropower renewable generation plays a larger
role between 2020 and 2035. The proposed policy could reduce US electric-power-sector
CO2 emissions to 44% below the EIA’s reference case in 2035. National average
delivered electricity prices could increase gradually to 18% above the reference case
by 2035. However, there will still be a need to use the CO2 from the gas-powered plants
in the US and coal-powered plants worldwide by CCUS or other methods. These conclusions
concur with recent reports published by some major oil and gas entities on
the future of natural gas for electrical generation in the US.

The need for pure CCS in developed countries such as the US may not be as great
as in developing countries; but, the US and other developed countries have the ability
and capability to implement CCS through CCUS.

Read the paper synopses in the July 2012 issue of JPT.

John D. Rogers, SPE, is vice president of operations for Fusion Reservoir Engineering Services. With 30  years of experience, he previously worked as a production/operations engineer for Amoco, as a research scientist for the Petroleum Recovery Research Center of New Mexico Tech, and for the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the DOE. Rogers holds BS and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from New  Mexico State University and an MS degree in petroleum engineering from Texas Tech University. Rogers has  contributed to more than 30 publications and has served on several SPE editorial and conference committees. He  currently serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.