Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Regulation

By Nordhaus, Robert R.; Pitlick, Emily | Energy Law Journal, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Regulation


Nordhaus, Robert R., Pitlick, Emily, Energy Law Journal


Synopsis:

The ability to transport massive volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) via pipeline will be crucial to using large scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects as a means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. The small existing CO2 pipeline infrastructure may eventually have to be expanded to be comparable in size to the country's natural gas pipeline system. To build out a national CO2 pipeline system, the U.S. will need to create a workable regulatory framework. Today, CO2 pipeline developers have no access to federal siting or federal eminent domain authority for construction of such pipelines; rather, they must deal with a patchwork of individual state laws and regulations. The shape of any applicable economic regulation, including rules on rate and access regulation, will also need to be resolved and addressed before project sponsors will build pipelines to support CCS. This article provides policymakers with analysis and recommendations respecting the federal regulatory regime governing the construction and operation of CO2 pipelines.

The article recommends that existing CO2 pipelines remain subject to state level regulation principally because the current state schemes in place can support the purpose for which they were built, which was not a national-level GHG emission reduction program. However, new pipelines should be able to elect to apply for federal permits for construction and operation similar to those granted for natural gas pipelines. Once a federal permit is issued, the project sponsor would not be subject to state siting requirements and would have eminent domain authority similar to that provided interstate natural gas pipelines. When operational, CO2 pipelines for which a federal permit is issued would be subject to federal common carrier regulation. This recommended framework should better support construction of the new CO2 pipeline infrastructure necessary for widespread deployment of CCS.

I. INTRODUCTION

As discussion of a federal regulatory program for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and otiier greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continues in the United States, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has emerged as a key technology option for CO2 emissions abatement. This article surveys the current regulatory regime in place for CO2 pipeline transportation and suggests areas for further evaluation. It outlines background information about CO2 transport, summarizes the current state of CO2 pipeline regulation under federal and state law, evaluates existing law in areas that may be important for a national CO2 pipeline system, discusses alternative regulatory frameworks that could be considered to support development and operation of a much larger CO2 pipeline network, and concludes with recommendations for reform.

II. BACKGROUND

CCS is regarded as "the critical enabling technology" for reducing CO2 emissions significantly while allowing the continued use of coal and other fossil fuels to meet energy needs.1 While numerous efforts are underway to understand the behavior of injected CO2 in storage formations,2 and to develop rules for siting of injection sites/ comparatively less attention has been paid to CO2 transportation infrastructure issues that could arise.

CCS is me process in which CO2 - die most common GHG - is separated from the process and exhaust streams of electric generation units and omer large emissions sources, compressed, and injected into underground formations to prevent its release into me atmosphere.4 The large volumes of CO2 are compressed for injection onsite or transportation to a storage site with suitable geology. CO2 is transported as a supercritical fluid (a substance above critical temperature and pressure points exhibiting characteristics of both a liquid and a gas), which maximizes pipeline efficiency.5

From an operational perspective, pipeline diameters are sized according to operating parameters so that CO2 remains supercritical fluid throughout transport. …

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