News Ticker

carbon dioxide utilization
The demand for power in North Dakota is ever increasing. It is estimated that 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of additional electricity will be required for power in North Dakota by the year 2032. This poses a critical question: Will carbon capture technologies play a role in meeting that demand? The answer is yes, if all of the regional benefits are considered.

In North Dakota, coal is a widely used and abundant resource that will continue to supply affordable, environmentally sound energy to the state and beyond. North Dakota’s average electric rates are among the lowest in the United States, and more than 28,000 jobs in the state are due to the lignite industry. Not only is coal one of the lowest-cost options for power, it could also give the state a competitive advantage for the production of additional oil by providing CO2for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

So what opportunities does carbon capture offer industry in North Dakota? When carbon capture in the power generation sector is discussed, it must be discussed as an entire process: CO2 capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). It is important to investigate this in terms of current power plant technology, the available options for transporting the CO2 and, finally, the options for storage and use of the captured CO2. In addition, the cost of each factor must be taken into consideration, as they will ultimately affect the cost of electricity in a carbon-managed power production world.

Development of economically feasible carbon capture technology presents one of the biggest challenges to the fossil energy industry in the 21st century. New concepts and ideas are being generated each year. Many existing technologies are capable of capturing carbon from coal-fired power plants, but most are still too expensive and inefficient, and the long-term effects on technology performance and balance of plant operations are not understood. Further development and evaluation of these and new technologies are critical steps toward economical carbon capture.

At this time, most capture concepts are not ready for full-scale deployment. Today’s most deployable technologies rely on either solvents or sorbents to capture the CO2 from the flue gas stream, while coal gasification can also employ membranes for CO2separation. The integration of such technologies is anticipated to reduce the plant’s electricity output by as much as 35%. In fact, some smaller plants could shut down, as the cost of additional emission control, CO2 capture integration, and the energy penalty would be too great to overcome.

This is why the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to developing technologies to improve this situation. According to DOE, the wholesale cost of electricity could increase by 80% as a result of the projected cost of CO2 capture at $60 per metric ton. DOE has set a goal for second-generation technology to drop the cost of CO2 capture below $40 per metric ton by 2025. It is all part of a DOE-sponsored program to address the issues facing commercially viable carbon capture.

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota is also working to address these challenges. The Partnership for CO2 Capture (PCO2C) Program is evaluating several CO2 capture technologies that are among the most advanced systems under development. PCO2C was developed with the overall goal of advancing the state of CO2capture by evaluating and demonstrating those technologies with the best commercial viability for utility applications. In performing pilot-scale testing of these systems, PCO2C identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each technology to allow for enhanced performance and decreased costs for future applications.

What does this mean for North Dakota? In North Dakota alone, it is projected that an additional 2 to 3 GW of electrical energy will be required within the next two decades. As more and more technologies are advanced and demonstrated to cost-effectively capture CO2, current emission control technologies will be updated to accommodate those technologies. This will lead directly to the creation of additional coal industry-related jobs, as utilities are able to keep utilizing secure, low-cost fuel for power while progressing toward near-zero emissions. 

But beyond that is the incredible opportunity for the use of the captured CO2 in the oil and gas industry. Current demand for CO2 for EOR shows tremendous promise, with as much as 1 billion tons of CO2 demand for conventional EOR in the extended region and between 2 and 3.2 billion tons of potential demand for CO2in the Bakken, leading to a potential of 4–7 billion barrels of North Dakota oil produced through EOR.

COEOR involves injecting CO2 into an oil reservoir whereupon it mixes with the oil, creating a mixture of oil and CO2, freeing the oil from the rock, and driving additional oil to producing wells. CO2-based EOR is important in that it extends the life of existing oil fields. 

The expansion of the EOR industry is seriously dependent on the availability of CO2 to inject. With coal plants and other industrial facilities seeking to find a home for their emitted CO2, it becomes a matter of CO2 capture technology, economics, and mutual trust to develop joint ventures between these two industries that are so critical to America’s future and provide a transition to next-generation energy technology. This fosters yet another huge advantage for North Dakota’s energy industry. 

In addition, the emission reduction potential and sequestration associated with EOR is immense, and revenues from the oil produced partially offset the cost to the public and, ultimately, accelerate more widespread deployment of CCS in North Dakota. With the growing energy and carbon management concerns in North America, the contributions of CO2EOR need to be placed front and center to help drive technology improvements and reduce costs.

An additional 30 years or more of life in the Bakken can be gained by CO2-based EOR. This provides valuable employment, reduces the need to develop other new fields, and greatly enhances our North American oil supply while, at the same time, benefits the entire nation through a secure infrastructure anchored in North Dakota.