The Great Plains Institute (GPI) is excited to announce the final results of more than two years of research and modeling on carbon capture and storage opportunities throughout the US. The white paper, Transport Infrastructure for Carbon Capture and Storage: Regional Infrastructure for Midcentury Decarbonization, summarizes our findings and details our analytical approach. The analysis identifies near-term capture and storage opportunities, then designs and plans the regional transport infrastructure required to maximize CO2 abatement while minimizing cost and land use impact. 

This analysis is part of GPI’s facilitation of the Regional Carbon Capture Deployment Initiative and is the result of collaborations with more than a dozen research institutions to plan and design regional infrastructure for economy-wide deployment of CO2 capture, transport, and storage. Our team of collaborators included national laboratories, geological survey agencies, universities, private companies, and non-profit organizations.

Collaborative Process and Study Team

Analysis by the International Energy Agency has determined that deployment of carbon capture technology is critical to achieve midcentury US and global carbon reduction goals and temperature targets. Nearly every global temperature scenario put forth by international organizations and agreements requires dramatically accelerated use of carbon capture to meet its goals. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that carbon mitigation under the 2 degree C scenario would cost 138 percent more if carbon capture was not included as an emissions reduction strategy.

Industrial CO2 emissions account for about 33 percent of US stationary emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Many industrial facilities that create products such ethanol, cement, hydrogen, and ammonia offer immediate opportunities for relatively low-cost carbon capture due to the high purity and concentration of CO2 emissions coming off their production processes. GPI and its study partners estimated the cost of carbon capture retrofit for many of these facilities based off the actual costs of real-world capture equipment that has been in use for more than three decades.

Widespread Opportunities for Carbon Capture Retrofit Throughout the US

Source: Elizabeth Abramson, Great Plains Institute

In the core study region that included the Midwest, Gulf Coast, Rockies, and Northern Plains, GPI  identified an estimated 360 million tons of CO2 that can be captured per year from 418 industrial and power facilities in the near-and medium-term. In the long-term, GPI identified more than 1,517 facilities with annual emissions that would qualify them for federal tax credits for carbon capture and storage, totaling more than 2.3 billion tons of CO2 each year. This accounts for 89 percent of all CO2 emissions from US industrial and power facilities.

Relatively Low-Cost Carbon Capture at Industrial Facilities

Source: Elizabeth Abramson, Great Plains Institute

CO2 that is captured at an industrial or power facility must be transported to a permanent and secure storage location in geologic layers such as deep saline formations or fossil basins. GPI worked with a number of research teams involved in the US Department of Energy’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships to identify potential areas of geologic storage throughout the US. There is technical potential to store hundreds to thousands of years of US CO2 emissions in geologic formations, according to the Department of Energy’s Carbon Storage Atlas. As you can see on the map below, these geologic formations exist all over the country, but do not cover all areas, especially parts of the Upper Midwest where there are highly concentrated clusters of industrial facilities. Transport infrastructure will be required to deliver and sell captured CO2 to areas for permanent storage and use.

Areas for Geologic CO2 Storage

Source: Elizabeth Abramson, Great Plains Institute

Study Findings: Economies of Scale Benefit More Capacity and Coordinated Long-Term Planning

GPI worked with Los Alamos National Laboratory to feed our identified capture facilities and storage locations in to the SimCCS model. SimCCS designs optimized CO2 transport infrastructure that maximizes capture and storage while minimizing cost and land use. The model uses more than a dozen layers of land-use classification to avoid impacting critical areas such as federally protected lands and parks, bodies of water, urban areas, and native lands. Regional CO2 transport networks were modeled under a variety of scenarios and are detailed in the white paper.

Regional Network for Near- and Medium-Term CO2 Capture and Storage

Source: Elizabeth Abramson, Great Plains Institute

The resulting maps of CO2 transport infrastructure of varying size, capacity, routing, and total CO2 abatement allowed us to study the cost and land use implications of different approaches to design and planning. The National Energy Technology Laboratory’s CO2 Transport Cost model was used to calculate the likely capital investment, construction costs, operation and maintenance, and labor investment required to build and operate each segment of the network. Two final scenarios emerged out of this iterative modeling and calculation: a CO2 transport network built for near- and medium-term capture opportunities; and a transport network built with capacity to deploy to capture opportunities across a longer midcentury planning horizon.

CO2 Storage, Land Use, and Investment Across Primary Scenarios
Scenario CO2 Stored Miles of Transport Network Capital Investment Project Labor Investment Annual O&M Spending
Near- and Medium-Term 281 million metric tons 29,710 miles $16.6 billion $14.3 billion $252 million
Midcentury 669 million metric tons 29,922 miles $19.3 billion $15.3 billion $254 million
Impact of midcentury planning horizon x 2.38 more CO2 stored +0.7% +16.3% +7.0% +0.8%

Comparing these two scenarios yielded some very interesting findings. In the near-and medium-term scenario, approximately 281 million metric tons of CO2 were captured and stored annually with a required capital investment of $16.6 billion and labor spending of $14.3 billion. For the midcentury scenario, we then added the remaining industrial and power facilities and widespread saline geologic storage, resulting in 669 million metric tons of CO2 being captured and stored annually. While this is more than 2.38 times the amount of annual CO2 abatement compared to the near- and medium-term scenario, the resulting transport infrastructure required barely any additional land use and minimal additional investment. For this final scenario, only 0.7 percent more miles of transport network were required, with an additional 16 percent increase capital investment, 7 percent increase in labor spending, and only 0.8 percent increase in annual operation and maintenance costs.

These cost efficiencies, in which CO2 abatement was more than doubled while land use and costs increased by only a fraction, were achieved through the beneficial economies of scale of CO2 transport network materials and construction. Infrastructure with larger capacities built for long-term planning horizons can deliver more CO2 at lower per-ton transport costs.

The economies of scale demonstrated by this study’s results show clear climate and economic benefits for long-term coordination and planning of CO2 transport infrastructure for midcentury decarbonization. GPI’s study revealed a wealth of opportunities for both capture and storage of CO2 throughout the US. The scale of CO2 storage required for the US to meet 21st century temperature targets can only be achieved through economy-wide retrofit of carbon capture equipment. As detailed in our whitepaper, planning the infrastructure necessary to achieve this will need to happen soon through regional, inter-state coordination and long term planning.

Midcentury CO2 Transport Infrastructure: Final Study Scenario

You can read the full press release and supporting quotes from our partners here. Sign up for GPI’s monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date on our work to transform the energy system to benefit the economy and environment.

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