By Gordon McArthur
Gordon McArthur co-founded, along with Dr. David Risk of St. Francis Xavier University and other graduate students, Forerunner Research Inc., a new scientific instrumentation and services provider based out of Halifax, NS. As well as managing the company, he is also doing an M.Sc. with Dr. Risk – a CMC-funded researcher. CMC helped sponsor the Carbon Management Technology Conference in Florida. McArthur attended on behalf of the network.
From February 7th to 9th I attended the inaugural Carbon Management Technology Conference in Orlando, Florida. Strictly speaking the event was an engineering conference that focused on a variety of challenges associated with growing energy demands and concern over the environment. While the fact some speakers refused to admit or refute climate change was interesting, the consensus among presenters seemed to be that regardless of the validity of climate change, it is sound business to adopt appropriate risk management strategies. I appreciated this approach because it emphasized some action, which is better than none.
Conference well attended
The conference was sponsored by eight different engineering organizations but was attended by more than just engineers. There were academics from national laboratories and universities, lawyers from utility funded institutions, economists from global CCS think tanks, and consultants of every sort.
Hot topics of discussion included the legal uncertainties associated with companies performing internal GHG accounting and how, in some cases, it can be quite a liability. Talk also focused on the growing energy demands of the world and the necessary efficiencies and technologies that need to be implemented in order to mitigate the risks of climate change. Lastly, another common theme throughout the conference was the focus on standard development, adherence and regulations.
Permitting process complicated
I attended several sessions on permitting in the U.S.A. When it comes to CCS, obtaining proper permits for injecting CO2 is slow and expensive. For EOR projects, however, permitting is much less troublesome because the EPA does not regulate subsurface injections. This was particularly interesting and stressed a difference between CCS and EOR. CCS does not involve the recovery of any resources and is purely a cost to energy utilities, whereas EOR offers an immediate and tangible economic motivation for the practice of injecting CO2 into under performing oil reservoirs. Furthermore, a recurring theme of the meeting was that, without a price for carbon, the additional price to outfit coal power plants with CCS capacities doesn’t make economic sense.
Overall I found CMTC-Orlando 2012 interesting with some very impressive speakers from the energy sector who conveyed real confidence in the ingenuity of their companies and in human innovation. Although the USA certainly has done a good job building the regulatory system to handle CCS project permit applications, the motivation to pay the extra money for energy is missing. While the U.S. Department of Energy is funding a lot of CCS research, and even some demonstration projects, the long-term future of the technology will depend on the success of engineers making it cheaper so that a reasonable economic case can be made for mainstream implementation of CCS.
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