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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Carbon Capture: A Technology Assessment

Peter Folger, Coordinator
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is widely seen as a critical strategy for limiting atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide (CO
2)—the principal “greenhouse gas” linked to global climate change—from power plants and other large industrial sources. This report focuses on the first component of a CCS system, the CO2 capture process. Unlike the other two components of CCS, transportation and geologic storage, the CO2 capture component of CCS is heavily technology-dependent. For CCS to succeed at reducing CO2 emissions from a significant fraction of large sources in the United States, CO2 capture technologies would need to be deployed widely. Widespread commercial deployment will likely depend, in part, on the cost of the technology deployed to capture CO2. This report assesses prospects for improved, lower-cost technologies for each of the three current approaches to CO2 capture: post-combustion capture; pre-combustion capture; and oxy-combustion capture.

While all three approaches are capable of high capture efficiencies (typically about 90%), the major drawbacks of current processes are their high cost and the large energy requirements for operation. Another drawback is that at present there are still no full-scale applications of CO
capture on a coal-fired or gas-fired power plant. However, a number of large-scale demonstration projects at both coal combustion and gasification-based power plants are planned or underway in the United States and elsewhere. Substantial research and development (R&D) activities are also underway in the United States and elsewhere to develop and commercialize lower-cost capture systems with smaller energy penalties. Current R&D activities include development and testing of new or improved solvents that can lower the cost of current post-combustion and precombustion capture, as well as research on a variety of potential “breakthrough technologies” such as novel solvents, sorbents, membranes, and oxyfuel systems that hold promise for even lower-cost capture systems.

The future use of coal in the United States will likely depend on whether and how CCS is deployed if legislative or regulatory actions curtail future CO
2 emissions. Congressional interest in CCS was renewed when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-proposed standards for carbon dioxide (CO2) from new fossil-fueled power plants on September 20, 2013. These re-proposed standards would not apply to existing power plants. As re-proposed, the standards would limit emissions of CO2 to no more than 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour of production from new coal-fired power plants and between 1,000 and 1,100 for new natural gasfired plants. According to EPA, new natural gas-fired stationary power plants should be able to meet the proposed standards. However, new coal-fired plants only would be able to meet the standards by installing CCS technology, which could add significant capital costs.

In general, the focus of most current R&D activities is on cost reduction rather than additional gains in the efficiency of CO
2 capture. Key questions regarding the outcomes from these R&D efforts are when advanced CO2 capture systems will be available for commercial rollout, and how much cheaper they will be compared to current technology. “Technology roadmaps” developed by governmental and private-sector organizations in the United States and elsewhere anticipate that CO2 capture will be available for commercial deployment at power plants by 2020. A number of roadmaps also project that some novel, lower-cost technologies will be commercial in the 2020 time frame. Such projections acknowledge, however, that this will require aggressive and sustained efforts to advance promising concepts to commercial reality.

Achieving significant cost reductions will likely require not only a vigorous and sustained level of R&D, but also a significant market for CO
2 capture technologies to generate a substantial level of commercial deployment. At present such a market does not yet exist. While various types of incentive programs can accelerate the development and deployment of CO2 capture technology, actions that significantly limit emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere ultimately are needed to realize substantial and sustained reductions in the future cost of CO2 capture.

Date of Report: October 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 100
Order Number: R41325
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs

Lynn J. Cunningham and Beth A. Roberts
Information Research Specialists

Energy is crucial to the operation of a modern industrial and services economy. Recently, there have been growing concerns about the availability and cost of energy and about environmental impacts of fossil energy use. Those concerns have rekindled interest in energy efficiency, energy conservation, and the development and commercialization of renewable energy technologies.

Many of the existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have authorizations tracing back to the 1970s. Many of the programs have been reauthorized and redesigned repeatedly to meet changing economic factors. The programs apply broadly to sectors ranging from industry to academia, and from state and local governments to rural communities.

Since 2005, Congress has enacted several major energy laws: the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005; P.L. 109-58); the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110- 140); the Energy Improvement and Extension Act (EIEA), enacted as Division B of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA; P.L. 110-343); and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5). Each of those laws established, expanded, or modified energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) programs. The Department of Energy (DOE) operates the greatest number of efficiency and renewable energy incentive programs. The Department of the Treasury and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) operate several programs. A few programs can also be found among the Departments of Interior (DOI), Labor (DOL), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

This report describes federal programs that provide grants, loans, loan guarantees, and other direct or indirect incentives for energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy. For each program, the report provides the administering agency, authorizing statute(s), annual funding, and the program expiration date. The appendixes provide summary information in a tabular format and also list recently expired programs.

Date of Report: October 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 60
Order Number: R40913
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy

Peter Folger
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

On September 20, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-proposed standards for carbon dioxide (CO
2) from new fossil-fueled power plants. As re-proposed, the standards would limit emissions of CO2 to no more than 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour of production from new coal-fired power plants and between 1,000 and 1,100 (depending on size of the plant) for new natural gas-fired plants. EPA proposed the standard under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. According to EPA, new natural gas-fired stationary power plants should be able to meet the proposed standards without additional cost and the need for add-on control technology. However, new coal-fired plants only would be able to meet the standards by installing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. The proposed standard allows a seven-year compliance period for coal-fired plants but would require a more stringent standard for those plants that limit COemissions to an average of 1,000-1,050 pounds per megawatt-hour over the seven-year period.

The EPA had first proposed a standard limiting CO
2 emissions from new power plants in April 2012 but received more than 2.5 million comments and never finalized the rule. Both the April 2012 and the September 20, 2013, proposed rule have sparked increased scrutiny of the future of CCS as a viable technology for reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. The proposed rule also places a new focus on whether the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) CCS research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) program will achieve its vision of developing an advanced CCS technology portfolio ready by 2020 for large-scale CCS deployment.

Congress appropriated $3.4 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) for CCS RD&D at DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy in addition to annual appropriations for CCS. The large influx of funding for industrial-scale CCS projects may accelerate development and deployment of CCS in the United States. Since enactment of the Recovery Act, DOE has shifted its RD&D emphasis to the demonstration phase of carbon capture technology. However, the future deployment of CCS may take a different course if the major components of the DOE program follow a path similar to DOE’s flagship CCS demonstration project, FutureGen, which has experienced delays and multiple changes of scope and design since its inception in 2003.

To date, there are no commercial ventures in the United States that capture, transport, and inject industrial-scale quantities of CO
2 solely for the purposes of carbon sequestration. However, CCS RD&D has embarked on commercial-scale demonstration projects for CO2 capture, injection, and storage. The success of these projects will likely influence the future outlook for widespread deployment of CCS technologies as a strategy for preventing large quantities of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere while U.S. power plants continue to burn fossil fuels, mainly coal. One project, the Kemper County Facility, has received $270 million from DOE under its Clean Coal Power Initiative Round 2 program, and is slated to begin commercial operation in May 2014. The 583 megawatt capacity facility anticipates capturing 65 percent of its CO2 emissions, making it equivalent to a new natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant. Cost overruns at the Kemper Plant, however, have raised questions over the relative value of environmental benefits due to CCS technology compared to construction costs of the facility and its effect on ratepayers.

Given the pending EPA rule, congressional interest in the future of coal as a domestic energy source appears directly linked to the future of CCS. In the short term, congressional support for building new coal-fired power plants could be expressed through legislative action to modify or block the proposed EPA rule. 

Alternatively, congressional oversight of the CCS RD&D program could help inform decisions about the level of support for the program and help Congress gauge whether it is on track to meet its goals. A DOE Inspector General Audit report identified several weaknesses in the DOE management of awards made under the Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) program funded by the Recovery Act. The audit report noted that addressing these management issues would be important to future management of the program, given that DOE had only obligated about $623 million of the $1.5 billion appropriated for the ICCS program under the Recovery Act as of February 2013.

Date of Report: September 30, 2013
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R42496
Price: $29.95

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