Approaches for capturing the CO2 released from coal- and gas-fired power plants and compressing and storing it underground (either in geological formations or via mineralization) are an important subject of research. While many of the component processes needed for this form of CCS are already used—for example, CO2 injection is often used to improve yield or extend the lifetime of oil fields—there is currently only one demonstration CCS facility integrated with electrical power production in the United States,7 and there are only a handful worldwide. As a result, many questions remain about the technological feasibility, economic efficiency, and social and environmental impacts of this approach.
Much of the needed research to support further development and, if proven feasible, widespread deployment of CCS has been outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2005). Research on the storage component focuses on the assessment of potential geologic reservoirs where CO2 could be stored safely for long amounts of time, on the efficacy of carbon adsorption in geologic formations, and on monitoring techniques that would allow tracking of CO2 once underground. Research on carbon capture focuses on improved methods for separating CO2 from power plant waste, including analysis and development of approaches to feasibly (both
7 In late 2009, the Mountaineer Plant in West Virginia began capturing and storing CO2 from a 20-MW portion of the 1,400-MW plant using the chilled ammonia process. A project to scale up to a commercial-scale capture and sequestration demonstration has just been awarded. The DOE expects sequestration of 1.5 million tons per year of CO2 to begin in 2015 (DOE, 2010). The FutureGen project, if built, would gasify coal, burn the gases in a combined turbine/steam cycle plant, and then capture and sequester the CO2.
technologically and economically) retrofit existing plants with new technology. In addition, research is needed on environmental and social impacts of CCS (for example, its potential impacts on freshwater resources) and on the issues of adoption of new technology and public resistance to technologies that are perceived to be hazardous, all of which are critical to sound decision making about CCS.
The America's Energy Future committee highlighted the need for technical, cost, risk, environmental impact, legal, and other data to assess the viability of CCS in conjunction with fossil fuel-based power generation. It judged that the period between now and 2020 could be sufficient for acquiring the needed information, primarily through the construction and operation of full-scale demonstration facilities (NRC, 2009d).
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