Using Hydrogen is Difficult & Storing Carbon Dioxide is Even More Challenging!

by Duane Nichols on August 21, 2023

Geologic storage studies are underway but issues remain …

As hydrogen projects kick off, environmental groups question effects of carbon capture

From an Article by Brad McElhinny, WV Metro News, August 20, 2023

A big question about a hydrogen production project kickstarted by West Virginia officials this month is the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide byproduct underground on public lands. That’s just the spearhead of what’s likely to be ongoing public debate over whether that kind of carbon capture storage is truly workable for a range of big projects.

Fidelis New Energy plans a multi-faceted project for Point Pleasant aiming to produce hydrogen from natural gas and use the energy for a variety of purposes including carbon-neutral hyperscale datacenters, greenhouses, transportation, and steel production.

To aim for zero emissions, the state Division of Natural Resources would directly award leases to Fidelis for the development of pore spaces for carbon capture and sequestration on state-owned properties.

Carbon capture and sequestration is a long-studied way of disposing of carbon dioxide through underground storage, but the process has not been economically viable so far. However, the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last year includes significant incentives for manufacturers embracing carbon capture. The incentives are in the form of tax credits.

“Since the announcement from the Department of Energy, during the Inflation Reduction Act talks, about hydrogen hubs, it was clear that Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were going to go for funding — and that it was going to involve hydrogen made from gas, or what they call blue hydrogen,” said Karan May, campaign representative for the Sierra Club in West Virginia “So, yeah, I think we’re going to see this over and over again.”

The process sounds like an environmental breakthrough, but climate change activists and conservationists have expressed concern already that projects like the one presented by Fidelis could be a fig leaf: a way to consume natural gas while banking on technology without a track record.

“I think there’s pushback because there’s concern about emissions, there are concerns about air and water pollution, there’s concern about geologic issues — and I’m talking about earthquakes, even, in some cases,” May said.

“And even before getting to all of that, you have this talk about carbon capture as if it’s a proven technology, and it is not. There have been no successful stories of carbon capture utilization and storage that I know of, and yet we have government officials who are ready to spend tens of millions of taxpayer money on something that is likely to fail if it is even developed in the first place.”

Representatives of environmental groups, speaking last week during a public comment portion of a state economic development meeting, questioned whether the technology is ripe and what the effect might be on West Virginia forest lands.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the project says the carbon capture component would use pore spaces underlying state forests, Wildlife Management Areas, other state-owned properties and private properties.

The carbon capture aspect of the project would involve interconnecting pipelines, wells and infrastructure to establish an underground warehouse north of Point Pleasant to store carbon dioxide “to be located beneath the aforementioned state properties and provide the state with substantial royalties.”

As state officials prepared to vote on $62.5 million in forgivable loans for the Fidelis project, May was among those questioning the economic viability of carbon capture. “I just think we need to look at that and not gamble with the state’s money,” May told state officials, including the governor.

More speakers during the public comment portion of the economic development meeting described risks of gas-based hydrogen production. “This carbon capture component includes using pore space of our beloved state forests and wildlife management areas,” said Morgan King, climate campaign coordinator for West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

Gov. Jim Justice responded to those with concerns by attempting to provide general assurances. “We’re going to do the right things. We’re not going to endanger our state parks. We’re not going to endanger our way of life,” Justice said. “But with all that, this could be an opportunity of jobs and greatness within this state.

“We absolutely have dollars today that are available to entice and bring people to this state, we want to absolutely with all in us, not frivolously throw our monies away. For crying out loud if we can put a little bit of money on the table, seed, we can find ways to make things better for all the world and it happened right here in West Virginia, I’m a real supporter.”

Inflation Reduction Act incentives ~ That is a conflict that could play out repeatedly as developers move to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act incentives. Most prominently, state officials have been supporting development of a hydrogen hub funded by yet another federal source, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Such projects would include carbon capture.

The Fidelis project in Mason County is a project development partner for the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub. Fidelis, in its news release last week, drew a direct link with the Inflation Reduction Act.

Such projects “and the economic impact they will bring to host states such as West Virginia would not be possible without the energy security and transition incentives passed by Congress in the Inflation Reduction Act,” the company stated.

NOTICE ~ West Virginia has applied with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection for state-level primacy of its Class VI well program so that it could oversee carbon storage projects.

A range of West Virginia groups sent a letter to the EPA expressing concern. “So called ‘carbon capture and sequestration’ technology is just another ploy by polluters to avoid the steep emissions cuts we must make this decade. We’ve got to stop wasting our collective time and dime on this ridiculous distraction,” said Eric Engle, board president of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association joined a multi-state coalition supporting state-level primacy. “We strongly believe in an all of the above energy mix and carbon capture is an important to maximizing the use of our fossil fuels in West Virginia,” said Rebecca McPhail, president of the manufacturers association.

“Without sufficient private investment and support to scale emerging technologies, the aggressive climate goals of many who oppose the application for primacy will not be realized. While pushing back on this effort, the groups who oppose offer no realistic solutions for making significant environmental gains in energy production.”

That’s the big picture. The project proposed by Fidelis presents immediate questions.

“Governor Justice’s decision earlier this week to fast-track a $62.5 million forgivable loan to a massive CCS project without any meaningful community engagement or transparency demonstrates a hostility to the public that makes West Virginia a poor fit to run the EPA’s Class VI program,” said Julie Archer, President of the League of Women Voters of West Virginia.

“Unless federal regulators reject this primacy application, West Virginians will continue to be cut out of decisions that impact their lives.”


SEE ALSO ~ The Trouble(s) With Hydrogen, Sabine Hassenfelder, BackReaction Blog, January 18, 2023

See Video Here ~

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