Week 3 USA
Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A. - photo credit http://unsplash.io.
Welcome to the third edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week is the turn of the US who signed the Paris Agreement on the 22nd of April 2016, accepted it on the 3rd of September that year, with it coming into force on the 4th of November 2016.
According to the European Commission’s research database EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research), the US were the second highest emitting nation of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2014, after China, with almost 15% of overall emissions. On aggregate, the US and China emitted 45% of all CO2 emissions into the atmosphere between them. Last week, I discussed how the two countries had come together in 2009 to form the US-China Clean Energy Center (CERC). From a US perspective, the secretary of the Department of Energy (DoE) sits on CERC’s steering committee. CERC’s bilateral research effort concentrates on five key areas:
1. Advanced coal technology
2. Building energy efficiency
3. Clean vehicles
4. Water and energy technology
5. Medium and heavy-duty trucks
The EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statistics for the US in 2014 indicates that the largest emitters by sector are electricity (30%), transportation (26%) and industry (21%). Similar to China, coal was identified as the predominant fuel source used for electricity generation (77%). All three sectors are directly or indirectly dependent on fossil fuels.
The DoE set-up the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) in a bid to tackle GHG emissions arising from coal-fueled activities. Through this initiative, the largest carbon capture storage (CCS) coal plant in the US was opened in Kemper County, Mississippi. The objective of the pre-combustion facility at Kemper is to produce electricity as efficiently and environmentally friendly as possible through the use of CCS technologies.
From a post-combustion point view, Petra Nova Parish Holdings (a joint venture between NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Energy) are retrofitting the W.A. Parish coal-fired generation station with CCS technology. It is estimated that the plant will be able to capture and store up to 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.
US innovation capability in the area of CCUS is further evident by the number of US-based teams competing in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. This prestigious competition funds the very best of CCUS innovation in two tracks, coal and natural gas. Recently the 27 semifinalists were announced, 14 teams being from the US. CCUS innovation by these companies takes a wide range of forms from concrete enhancement to gas and liquid fuel production.
US academic centers are also quite active in the development of CO2 capture projects with universities from East to West coast such as Pennsylvania State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Southern California among others collaborating with the Department of Energy via its National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). The West Virginia University is also part of CERC’s advanced coal technology consortium.
Over the past decade or so, the US has invested a substantial amount of time and intellectual brainpower into CCUS research and technology. Currently, the NETL supports 49 active CO2 capture projects. It remains to be seen, however, what steps Rick Perry, the new secretary of the DoE, will take over the next four years. Given his reputation as a climate change skeptic, many are concerned about which direction he will take in the DoE and whether or not the recent momentum in developing CCUS policy and investment will be compromised.