Existing state laws, regulations urged for CO2 storage

Dec. 7, 2006
Existing state gas-storage statutes and regulatory frameworks should govern future carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, says an Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission task force leader.

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Dec. 7 -- Existing state gas-storage statutes and regulatory frameworks should govern future carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, says an Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission task force leader.

Lawrence Bengal, chair of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission and head of IOGCC's Carbon Capture and Geological Storage Regulatory Task Force, told a Dec. 4-5 carbon management workshop in The Woodlands, Tex., that the oil industry must prepare for carbon regulation.

Others at the event echoed the warning, which relates to concerns about the climate effects of carbon dioxide emissions. The workshop, sponsored by various oil companies, is associated with the CO2 flooding conference in Midland.

For more than a year, the IOGCC task force examined technical, policy, and regulatory issues related to CO2 storage in depleted oil and gas fields, saline formations, and coalbeds.

Protocols developed through CO2 enhanced oil recovery projects probably will guide early CCS efforts. The main difference will be that EOR CO2 comes from natural sources, while future CCS projects are expected to capture and store CO2 from industrial sources.

The task force issued an initial report in 2005 and expects to release recommended regulatory guidelines next year. Bengal said the task force believes carbon regulations need to be flexible and responsive to emerging CCS technologies and experience.

"It's a certainty that one size will not fit all projects," he said. "The most important element will be a positive public presentation of the issues. CCS is part of a solution with economic and environmental benefits and not a waste problem."

Scott Anderson, Environmental Defense energy policy specialist for the organization's Texas office, said carbon management regulations are inevitable. He said the only questions are when and how such regulations might be implemented and administered.

"The political context in which CO2 sequestration regulations are developed is very important," Anderson said, adding that transparency will be vital.

The US Department of Energy and its National Energy Technology Laboratory provided funding for the IOGCC task force, which included representatives from IOGCC member states and international affiliates, state oil and gas agencies, DOE, DOE-sponsored regional carbon sequestration partnerships, the Association of American State Geologists, and others.

Bengal said the task force plans to propose a state-administered CCS regulatory framework under the authorities of states wishing to participate. The US already has more than 3,500 miles of high-pressure CO2 pipelines.

Texas state officials have 30 years of experience with CO2 injection for EOR, Bengal said. Many states regulate EOR under the Underground Injection Control Program of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

"States have the necessary regulatory analogs in place to facilitate development of a comprehensive CCS regulatory framework," Bengal said. "CO2 should be regulated as a commodity to allow the application of oil and gas conservation laws that will facilitate development of storage projects."

The task force will propose state oil and gas regulatory agencies are the best vehicles for implementing regulatory CCS frameworks, he said.

In addition, the task force plans to suggest that states administer long-term caretaker responsibility for CCS projects. It believes regulations will be needed to determine long-term liability and also to establish long-term monitoring and verification to confirm that injected CO2 remains in its intended storage place.

Experience in those areas is limited, Bengal said.

"Given the long timeframes proposed for CO2 storage projects, innovative solutions to protect against orphaned sites will need to be developed," the 2005 task force report said. "This can be accomplished through state and provincial government administration of federally guaranteed, industry-funded abandonment programs."

Contact Paula Dittrick at [email protected].