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CO2 Pipeline Rights-of-Way – 2

September 15, 2010

(Continued from Monday.)

Existing oil and natural gas pipelines east of the Mississippi, where the majority of CO2 pipelines will be located, travel in a northeasterly direction, while pipelines carrying CO2 will need to run in a westerly or northwesterly direction. In most instances existing rights-of-way cannot be used.

Transmission line rights-of-way could possibly be used for feeder lines running from power plants to connect with trunk lines; however, the running of pipelines parallel with the centerline of the right-of-way may be discouraged by the utilities owning the transmission lines.  Currently, FERC does not have jurisdiction over pipelines within transmission line rights-of-way, though Congress could grant this jurisdiction in the future.

Some coal-fired power plants are located within urban areas, and in a few cases deep within cities. For example, the Eddystone power plant, south of Philadelphia, the Crawford plant in Chicago, and the Oak Creek plant south of Milwaukee are situated next to bodies of water, but are otherwise surrounded by commercial, industrial and residential areas.

In these and other instances, pipelines will have to run under city streets and through residential areas – or the power plant will have to be closed or modified to burn wood chips, which are supposedly carbon neutral.

Obtaining rights-of-way from property owners will be a time-consuming process and may require government to exercise eminent domain to take the property. When traversing residential areas it could easily require condemnation of homes.

A right-of-way for a CO2 pipeline will be approximately 100 feet wide, 40 feet for the pipeline and an additional 60 feet that’s required for pipeline construction.

Takings are virtually unavoidable due to the length of the CO2 pipelines, their locations in well-developed eastern states and their routes through established communities.

The political process involving public hearings and appeals to various Congressmen, including the potential for lawsuits, will likely make obtaining rights-of-way a dramatic undertaking – possibly a circus.

Many coal-fired power plants are located west of the Appalachian Mountains and are in close proximity to geologic formations where CO2 may be sequestered. The situation east of the Appalachian Mountains is different, with most coal-fired power plants located a hundred miles or more from the nearest suitable geologic formation.

Construction, ownership and management of the pipelines will be an issue.

West of the Appalachian Mountains, companies whose power plants are located close to an appropriate geologic formation may choose to own the pipelines. Even so, ownership of the geologic formations will also be an issue as will the approved (licensed) entity actually injecting CO2 into the geologic formation.

Feeder lines from each power plant may be owned by the company owning the power plant or by a “transport company”.

The “transport company” approach using trunk lines raises additional issues.

Presumably, ownership of the CO2 will be transferred from the power plant owner to the “transport company” when the feeder line intersects the trunk line. Leaks and liability issues will presumably lie with the owner of the pipeline carrying the CO2.

For the transfer of ownership from one pipeline to another to occur, quality standards will have to be established for the liquid CO2. Pressure and temperature will have to be rigidly controlled. The permissible level of contaminants, such as moisture, will have to be established and monitored. Excess moisture can result in the formation of Carbonic Acid. Limiting moisture content to below 30 lbs/million standard cubic feet is standard for the industry.

Safety will be an issue.

CO2 is heavier than air and odorless, so a pipeline leak has the potential to create a dangerous, possibly life threatening situation. As noted above, pipelines will traverse residential areas.

There is also the danger of violent expansion from a leak where pressure suddenly drops from 2,000 psi to 14.7 psi.

Obtaining permits and approvals from various government authorities will require considerable effort. The Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration administers federal regulations for CO2 pipelines, under Title 49 CFR- Transportation.

Every state, county, city, or town could have some jurisdiction over pipelines within their boundaries.

The unknowns are so profound, including issues relating to basic science, that it may be dangerous to proceed with legislation at this time.

Congress partially recognizes this by calling for the establishment of the “Carbon Storage Research Corporation” at a cost of $1 billion per year to investigate how CCS can be made to work.

Pipelines may not be as romantic as sequestration or of developing methods of carbon capture, but they are critical to the success of CCS, and much more needs to be understood about their design, operation and management before embarking on CCS. has more information on CCS.

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