The US Has The Potential To Create A Carbon-Capture Network, But It Hinges On Funding By New Tax Credits

Researchers recently released an article that suggests the development of a pipeline network to enable the United States to capture, utilize, and store greater amounts of Carbon, reducing the amount of CO2 released into the environment. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper proposes a pipeline network that can transfer carbon dioxide from ethanol refineries across the American Midwest.

The article, written by Ryan W. J. Edwards and Michael A. Celia of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Princeton University, focuses on the need for government financing of their proposed project. With the government financing 50% of the pipelines, they estimate that nearly 19 million tons of carbon dioxide per year could be captured and transported at a profit.

“Without government finance, we find that a network earning commercial rates of return would not be viable,” wrote Edwards and Celia.


Figure of colocated sources of CO2, existing CO2 pipelines, and potential saline storage capacities. Image by Ryan Edwards, Princeton University

The tax credit that was recently passed by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 initially gave the authors the motivation to propose their pipeline network, and suggest that the new tax credits are one of the most significant policies incentivizing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented computer-model-generated scenarios that suggested that reducing carbon emissions could reduce global temperatures from rising and maintain a goal of keeping the planet’s average temperature within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This threshold was further established in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Edwards and Celia decided to focus on ethanol biorefineries, because the excess gas produced is 99 percent carbon dioxide, and ethanol refineries in the Midwest produce 43 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

However, the construction of new pipelines has been a controversial topic for years. Fatality statistics from 2005 through 2009 state that oil pipelines are roughly 70 times as safe as oil trucks, which are more likely to be involved in car accidents, but pipeline failure poses disastrous environmental consequences. It was estimated that more than 3.1 million gallons of hazardous liquid per year were spilled from pipelines between 2008 and 2012.

Tony Iallonardo of the National Wildlife Federation told ProRepublica, “It’s inevitable that as pipelines age, as they are exposed to the elements, eventually they are going to spill. They’re ticking time bombs.”

Most notably, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian oil sands through Mayflower, Arkansas, broke and spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil onto the homes of 29 people. Reporters who covered the incident were threatened with arrest because Exxon wanted to release the daily updates covering the spill.




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