New EPA power plant rules will put carbon capture to the test

WASHINGTON - New public and private funding and expected strong federal power plant emissions reduction standards have accelerated electricity sector investments in carbon capture, utilization and storage,’ or CCUS, projects but some worry it is good money thrown after bad.

CCUS separates carbon from a fossil fuel-burning power plant’s exhaust for geologic storage or use in industrial and other applications, according to the Department of Energy. Fossil fuel industry giants like Calpine and Chevron are looking to take advantage of new federal tax credits and grant funding for CCUS to manage potentially high costs in meeting power plant performance requirements, including new rules, expected from EPA soon, on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

Power companies have “ambitious plans” to add CCUS to power plants, estimated to cause 25% of U.S. CO2 emissions. As a result, the power sector “needs CCUS in its toolkit,” said DOE Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Assistant Secretary Brad Crabtree. Successful pilots and demonstrations “will add to investor confidence and lead to more deployment” to provide dispatchable clean energy for power system reliability after 2030,| he added.

But environmentalists and others insist potentially cost-prohibitive CCUS infrastructure must still prove itself effective under rigorous and transparent federal oversight.

“The vast majority of long-term U.S. power sector needs can be met without fossil generation, and better options are being deployed and in development,” Sierra Club Senior Advisor, Strategic Research and Development, Jeremy Fisher, said. CCUS “may be needed, but without better guardrails, power sector abuses of federal funding could lead to increased emissions and stranded fossil assets,” he added.

New DOE CCUS project grants, an increased $85 per metric ton, or tonne, federal 45Q tax credit, and the forthcoming EPA power plant carbon rules will do for CCUS what similar policies did for renewables, advocates and opponents agreed. But controversial past CCUS performance and tax credit abuses must be avoided with transparent reporting requirements for CO2 capture, opponents added.


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