Carbon utilization bill could create value for CO2 emissions

By Tim Albrecht | June 08, 2018

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced three bills this week to boost rural economic opportunities by expanding USDA funding eligibility for clean energy projects. This funding would help improve electric grid security, create more energy choices for businesses, and advance the development and deployment of low-carbon, clean energy technologies—all in rural communities throughout the country.

The bills include the bipartisan Promoting Cybersecurity for Rural Electric Utilities Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; the Energy Storage for Rural America Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley. D-Ore.; and the Carbon Utilization Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

“As we look to the future of clean energy, we must invest in innovative, secure, and low-carbon technologies—especially in rural communities,” Bennet said in a press release. “We will work to include these energy provisions in the Farm Bill to provide funding for projects that create jobs, secure our electricity systems, and combat climate change. We must ensure that rural communities are included in the clean energy economy.”

The Carbon Utilization Act, co-sponsored by Bennet and Whitehouse, would allow new carbon utilization technologies, such as carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) and biogas production, to access USDA loan guarantees, research programs and rural development loans. The bill also would create education initiatives and encourage inter-agency collaboration to advance these technologies.

“The Carbon Capture Coalition is pleased to support the Carbon Utilization Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse,” said Brad Crabtree, Carbon Capture Coalition co-director and Great Plains Institute vice president for fossil energy. “As diverse industry, labor, NGO and other advocates for carbon capture technologies, the Coalition supports provisions in the Bennet bill to expand the capture, beneficial use and geologic storage of CO2 in the production of renewable fuels, chemicals and biobased products that will benefit agriculture, rural economies and communities while reducing carbon emissions. We look forward to working with Senator Bennet to secure passage of this important piece of the broader carbon capture technology agenda.”

Biofuels has a history of adding value to byproducts of ethanol production and DDGS are a good example of creating extra value out of the original core business of ethanol production, Crabtree says. “Carbon dioxide produced through fermentation can provide a similar opportunity to both create revenue and in this case solve an environmental problem at the same time.”

Capturing the CO2 and storing it geologically is a great opportunity. One opportunity is the CO2 can be injected into existing oil fields and used to produce additional oil through enhanced oil recovery, while the CO2 stays stored geologically in the reservoir, Crabtree says. “So, there are other ways that CO2 can be beneficially utilized in the context of renewable fuels, chemicals and biobased products. That’s where this bill will really have a focus is in the whole realm of taking CO2 and using it as a building block to produce useful products.”

According to Crabtree, there are three ethanol operations in the U.S. that are already capturing their CO2 and storing it geologically. There are two plants in Kansas that capture CO2 and transfer it via pipeline to oil fields where the oil is produced and the CO2 is stored in the process. Also, ADM is capturing just over 1 million tons of CO2 a year at its Decatur, Illinois, facility, and injecting and storing it in a saline formation. “So, they’re not producing any oil in the process, but they’re storing it geologically. As a result, ADM significantly reduces the carbon intensity of the ethanol they’re producing, which in turn can make them eligible to sell into low-carbon fuel markets.”