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Carbon Capture: Viable for Indiana?

November 12, 2009

RichardsA year ago, two Indiana University professors helped organize a summit of national technology, science, policy and regulatory experts through the Indiana Office of Energy Development. The summit focused on the opportunities and challenges of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and its relevance in Indiana. Now, a summary of the summit's findings is available from the State of Indiana's Web site.

The two Indiana University professors that helped organize the summit were John A. Rupp, assistant director for research with the Indiana Geological Survey, and Kenneth Richards, associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The summit's fndings, recommendations and presentations can be downloaded from

The summit recommended that the state of Indiana create a CCS task force; establish deployment goals for projects involving the capture, transport and storage of CO2; address policy challenges related to developing CCS; and implement strategies to facilitate deployment of the technology.

The issue of carbon capture and storage is crucial to Indiana, because it produces coal, and it relies on low-cost coal as the source for almost all of its electricity. CCS could allow continued use of coal in an era of likely restrictions on CO2 greenhouse gases. And Indiana's geology could allow for underground CO2 storage. "There's a general consensus that it can be done, but there are a lot of details to be worked out yet," said Rupp, referring to the steps needed to put Indiana at the forefront of deploying the technology.

Some of the recommendations from the summit have begun to be implemented: the task force to assess state policy issues has been established, some technical challenges are being addressed by demonstration projects and the state is involved in investigations of several options for transportation of captured CO2. Two regional consortia that include the Indiana Geological Survey -- the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium and the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership -- are investigating the technical challenges in the region by conducting deep subsurface injection projects in or near Indiana to examine the feasibility of underground CO2 storage.

Duke Energy is building a 630-megawatt coal-powered generating plant at Edwardsport, Ind., which will use integrated gasification combined-cycle technology to dramatically reduce pollutants other than carbon dioxide. Duke CEO Jim Rogers told the Indiana summit that the company is committed to CCS.

Meanwhile, energy has become a priority for Indiana University. In the past year:

  • IU established the Center for Research in Energy and the Environment.
  • President Michael McRobbie awarded faculty $50,000 for research on modeling the effects of energy development in Indiana.
  • Vice Provost for Research Sarita Soni convened about 200 faculty members from every IU campus to develop a comprehensive plan for energy research.
On the policy front, Richards has provided briefings on legal and regulatory issues for state lawmakers, who will have to decide when and how to develop state laws on underground carbon storage. A key question, he said, will be who owns the underground "pore space" in which CO2 would be injected and stored.

The law generally gives ownership of underground resources to the owner of the property overhead. But for a CCS project, which could underlie as many as 1,000 or more surface parcels, getting owner permission could be prohibitively expensive compared to the value of the resource.

Richards said CCS is unlike oil and gas extraction and other activities that involved underground property rights. "If it's like anything, it's like flying an airplane over somebody's property," he said. Just as property owners don't possess property rights "up to the heavens," neither do they necessarily own the deepest depths.

But persuading legislators to take a hard line on the property issue could be difficult. "We're a state that has a strong respect for property rights," Richards said.

When the CCS summit took place in September 2008, it was widely believed that Congress might vote early this year on climate-change legislation, capping greenhouse gas emissions and providing economic urgency for CCS. But the health-care debate has pushed back progress on climate legislation.

Richards said the delay may have taken some of the momentum away from CCS development, but it also creates time to develop smart approaches to regulation, property rights and economic subsidies for CCS.

"We're working hard on trying to understand the economic implications, both the technology cost implications and the economic development implications, of this process," he said.