Ted StevensSenatorMr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today on Carbon Sequestration Technologies. I would like to thank the witnesses for their testimony.In particular, I would like to welcome Ron Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe is Sealaska’s corporate forester and manager of the Office of Natural Resources. Mr. Wolfe has had a long and proud history of serving the Juneau community and Alaska as a whole. Prior to joining Sealaska, he was the forester for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and chief forester for the Klukwan Corporation. As a member of the Alaska Board of Forestry, Mr. Wolfe will provide valuable insight into forestry’s critical role in carbon capture and sequestration and I look forward to hearing his testimony.Energy is the lifeblood of our economy, without it, our ability to compete globally would be lost. Therefore, it is vital that our country’s energy needs continue to be met if we are to maintain a competitive edge in today’s global economy. By expanding our alternative energy portfolio, improving efficiency, and developing ways to exploit more cleanly our abundant natural resources, I believe we can achieve environmental stability while still allowing the economy to prosper. Carbon capture and sequestration is one such technology that may provide part of the solution.This technology, while helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, can also aid in recovering reserves of petroleum previously thought to be unrecoverable. Doing so will become more and more important as global oil reserves diminish and as petroleum prices rise. Further, forestry offers the widely understood option of capturing atmospheric carbon by growing more trees. This solution helps not only the environment, but also the economy and culture of many communities that depend on healthy forest management.While the promises of carbon sequestration technology are great, I believe it is important to have a full understanding of this technology before implementing it. For instance, understanding how long-term sequestration may affect ground water supplies is just one of many issues of vital importance. Further, we must also realize that different regions require different solutions.
The Nation’s energy needs must be met through a variety of solutions. The 21st century will be the proving ground for our commitment to achieve both energy independence and new, clean fuels. We can solve our current energy crisis through a combination of initiatives. Increased domestic production, conservation, and the development of alternative sources of energy will all be part of the broader solution, but the appropriate balance must be found between all options. Carbon capture, in its several forms, will inevitably be part of this balance.
Question and Answer:Sen. Stevens: Mr. Wolfe, I know you have a real background in terms of serving the Alaska community and in particularly the native communities. I wonder through your history if you could tell us…this carbon sequestration must be diversified for utilizing a variety of technologies, such as forest management. How really, tell us, how this forest management will in terms of the percentage of overall carbon sequestration, how will it increase the goals of sequestration?Mr. Ron Wolfe: Sen. Stevens, I’ll be happy to provide more information on that to substitute for my record. I believe that the ability of forest to sequester and store carbon is part of an overall strategy.Sen. Stevens: Let me interrupt you. Is it just a standing forest or new timber or old timber? Does it vary with age in terms of its ability to sequester carbon?Mr. Ron Wolfe: Sen. Stevens, actually younger forest are better at taking up carbon and absorbing it, and in my testimony I offer, for this to be properly accounted for, we need to look at the total carbon budget, and that includes not only the growing in the forest, but the storing of carbon in the form of standing trees, but also in the products in which we produce and the viewing the substitutes, alternative products in lieu of wood products.Sen. Stevens: Dr. Benson, our state has half the coal of the United States. Most people do not realize that. Is it possible to have sequestration take place in terms of functions we’re looking at now of coal gasification and coal liquid faction?Dr. Sally Benson: Yes, it certainly is and it’s also possible to sequester carbon dioxide in deep un-mineable coal beds as well. And there are very significant resources in Alaska and in, actually, many places in this country where carbon dioxide can be stored in deep un-mineable coal beds as well and it’s also possible to increase methane recovery in the course of those operations.Sen. Stevens: Well, I recently had a briefing from the University of Alaska about the increased methane seeping out from the permafrost as it’s more and more exposed in Russia and Alaska. Is there a concept of methane sequestration, is that possible?Dr. Sally Benson: Thus far, I’m not familiar with a methane sequestration strategy. The issue you bring up is really very significant, having to do with the melting of the permafrost and large methane emission into the atmosphere, which are much more potent greenhouse gases than our carbon dioxide. I’m not familiar with a strategy to manage those emissions.Sen. Stevens: Well, I was told each unit of methane contains twenty-one, twenty-two units of carbon monoxide, is that right?Dr. Sally Benson: They have the power of a greenhouse gas, a global warming power about twenty-two times higher than carbon dioxide does.Sen. Stevens: I am happy to join Sen. Kerry in this bill about these demonstration projects, but should we have demonstration projects on other substances, such as methane?Dr. Sally Benson: I think you bring up a very interesting point in remedial strategies to avoid those methane emissions, would be a very useful element of a way to manage greenhouse gas emissions. So, yes, I think it’s a good idea.Sen. Stevens: I was told it might be possible to capture them and use them in the form of natural gas and when it was burned, it would emit less units of carbon dioxide. Is that correct?Dr. Sally Benson: If you burn methane, it emits less carbon dioxide than coal, so yes, it is very beneficial. It could be quite difficult to capture though, these emissions which are occurring over many thousand acres and a whole new strategy to capture those emissions from the land surface into the atmosphere would be needed with regards to those methane emissions.Sen. Stevens: Well, I got to get, there’s a young scientist at the University of Alaska that, she has briefed us on what might be possible to capture substantial portions of leakages, I call them, of methane as the permafrost warms. You’re still following the Early Bird Rule?Sen. Stevens, if I might add, if we’re successful at developing these CO2 capture technologies, for coal plants, those are also applicable to natural gas units as well. So, if you’re successful at harnessing the natural gas from the permafrost, that is of concern to you, and you use that to generate electricity, number one, they generate fewer CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity, but number two, you could also benefit from this research in terms of capturing the CO2 form those plants as well.
Sen. Stevens: I think it’s very interesting that the amount of this methane that was projected to be coming out of the arctic compared to the history of methane seepages, it’s just overwhelming and I think we ought to do something about trying to capture this, as much can.Sen. Stevens: Can you give us a description of your Ultra-Gen Project? And you have the option there of capturing 25% of CO2 from the plant. Why 25%? Why not ten or why not fifty, is this cost related?Witness: Thank you for asking that question Sen. Stevens. The Ultra-Gen project that we’ve proposed and put before a number of folks in the industry to consider is a new, large 800 megawatt, clean, and efficient pulverized coal plant. So, 25% of the CO2 from that 800 megawatt power plant is effectively a 200 megawatt fully captured activity, which is larger than what is currently being done out there at a pilot stage, and it’s frankly the maximum level, we think, we can pilot existing developmental technologies for post-combustion capture with some reasonable certainty that this will actually work. We can scale it up, but the risk involved in scaling that project up even further to fifty, eighty, or ninety percent, technologically, we’re not ready to support that, given the research we’ve done so far and the basis for the pilot projects we’ve done to date.Sen. Stevens: On that same project, would the demonstration proposed there for Ultra-Gen One qualify for federal funding under existing law, that that’s the Energy Efficiency Act of 2007?Witness: As it presently reads, section 304 of H.R. 6 requires an 85% of the produced carbon dioxide at the facility to be captured in order to qualify for funding under that section, it also requires it to be half a million short tons per year. In the case of Ultra-Gen One, the first of the two we would foresee going for at 25%, it would not qualify for that funding. The second, the follow-on, Ultra-Gen Two we would treat at least 50% of the flue gas with a 90% removal process. And in the ultimate plant, sometime into the future, beyond Ultra-Gen Two there, would be a full scale 90% capture and deployment that it would clearly satisfy the requirements in the Senate language.Sen. Stevens: Let me ask this for the panel, and this be my next to last question, there are sizable areas of production of coal or gas and the consumers, the plants where that energy is used are fairly far from the place of production. Has anyone looked into the question of, can we sequester this carbon before it’s transported to a plant, you know, somewhere from Texas to Ohio, and then it’s burned there and then you want to transport it back to Texas. It does seem to me that one of the answers might be trying to find some way to sequester this carbon at the point of the production of the energy itself. Am I out-based? Dr. Benson?Dr. Sally Benson: No, and I think as we look to the future energy system, coal location of generating capability with storage capability will become a very desirable attribute. The situation we’re in right nowSen. Kerry: I think the Senator is asking about extraction production…Sen. Stevens: But she is talking at the point of extraction, right?Dr. Sally Benson: Right.Sen. Kerry: She’s talking about the production of the energy.Dr. Sally Benson: Right, so it would be desirable to locate power plant where you can store the CO2.Sen. Stevens: That’s what we were experimenting with twenty years ago. But we ran into the problem of the line lost. It is my understanding now that the line lost of high voltage is miniscule to what is what twenty years ago. Why aren’t we pursuing the sequestration at the point of production? Dr. Burruss, you started to answer that.Dr. Robert C. Burruss: You’ve raised an excellent question. The only way we can answer that is basically decide to go forward with these large demonstration plants and make a decision, should we locate them where the best storage is and then if they’re electrical generating plants, move the electricity versus the question of capturing the CO2 where it may be present to age it, present to generate it, and present and then move it to a storage site. Those questions have been considered in economic models, there’s no present decision on which one’s the best model.Sen. Stevens: Last question, and thank you Senator, when it comes right down to it, is this finally going to be a question of cost? We know the problem and we have to move forward. Is anyone analyzing what is the best use of the investment now? I know we’re going with these demonstrations projects, and I support this bill, as I’ve said, but has anyone looked at the overall national program of how to do this job of sequestration and do so the most efficiently and effectively from the point of use of the investment?Witness: Senator, we, as I mentioned in my testimony, if you would look at slide number two in our submittal, we’ve done some very detailed economic analysis of what an efficient pathway to decarobonizing the US economy would look like and it involves making some significant investments in research and development today that put us in better stead to efficiently and economically decarbonizes the economy over the next several decades, in the data we show here, out to 2050. We’ve done this, we’ve contrasted an approach on the left-hand side, which waits until the carbon constraint arrives and then begins the research versus one that does the research in advance of the carbon constraint and actually develops more tools in your tool box.Sen. Stevens: Respectfully, the deal with my mind, I’m an appropriator and looking at money. How are we going to use the money we have available most effectively now to achieve our goals in the future?If the underlying work behind this analysis, Senator, contains very detailed time tables and research road maps and actual expenditure amounts that we believe are necessary to achieve the RND goals outlined in our work and I’m happy to put that into the record, if you’re interested.Sen. Kerry: We would like thatSen. Stevens: I’d said last question. Dr. Benson what’s the answer?
Dr. Sally Benson: I just want to add something. I think the demonstration projects are incredibly important. But at the same time, we need to be sure we’re building the fundamental research base and there’s a high amount of leverage for a tiny fraction of the amounts you’re putting into these very large scale demonstrations. You could have a tremendous amount of learning that’s occurring, in addition, you’ll be developing the capacity for students, in the future workforce who will be able to do this. So, I think a fundamental research is an important component and I also believe that these small scale pilot test are also very important because in reality, we’re going to have maybe five demonstration projects, well, in reality we have maybe forty of fifty places we would like to sequester CO2. The very small scale pilots are complementary to the big demonstration projects, so, that there’s a readiness that’s being developed both in terms of the regulatory community and detailed geologic knowledge. All three I think are very, very important now.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Howard Herzog Ch.E.Principal Research EngineerMIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment
Mr. Charles E. FoxVice PresidentKinder Morgan CO2 Company, L.P.
Dr. Sally BensonExecutive Director, Global Climate and Energy ProjectProfessor, Energy Resources Engineering Department, Stanford University
Dr. Robert C. BurrussResearch Geologist, Energy Resources TeamU.S. Geological Survey
Mr. Ron WolfeCorporate Forester and Natural Resources ManagerSealaska Corporation
Dr. Bryan HanneganVice PresidentEnvironment Electric Power Research Institute