Storing Carbon Dioxide Underground in Large Quantities for Centuries is Irrational & Risky

by Duane Nichols on December 18, 2023

Earth’s geologic strata are irregular, heterogeneous and not reliable to retain carbon dioxide for centuries

LONGTERM CO2 STORAGE ~ Another assault on local communities and national forests

>>> Article by Randi Pokladnik, PhD, Tappan Lake, Uhrichsville, OH, December 18, 2023

Recently, the United States Forest Service announced that it is proposing a rule change to allow carbon dioxide captured directly from the air or industrial processes to be stored permanently on public lands. This carbon dioxide would be pumped into Class VI injection wells drilled 3000 feet deep in national forests and grasslands.

The proposed rule, “Land Uses; Special Uses; Carbon Capture and Storage Exemption,” and instructions on how to comment are available in the Federal Register at

Comments, identified by RIN 0596–AD55, may be sent through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at

Carbon capture utilization and storage has become the new “darling” of the fossil fuel industry and was touted at the climate discussions during the COP28 recently. “Along with 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists, there were 475 lobbyists specializing in Carbon Capture (Utilization) and Storage (CC(U)S) projects at the COP28.” If you have any doubt as to who is pushing this unproven and expensive technology, just look at the membership of carbon capture organizations.

In its current state, carbon capture is another false promise when it comes to addressing the urgent need to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. A 2019 Report by the Center for International Environmental Law, “Fuel to Fire”, states, “It is not surprising that the fossil fuel industry has invested and is investing heavily in the technologies that would render a transition from fossil fuels less urgent.” Carbon capture is one of those technologies.

“The International Energy Agency estimates that the world will need to be able to capture 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2050; today, the world’s total carbon capture amounts to just 4 percent of that goal.” The IEA data shows the U.S. could see CO2 capture capacity increase five-times to over 100 metric tons (Mt) CO2 annually with 80 projects coming on line by 2030, but this is hardly enough to make a dent in emissions as more fossil fuel development continues to add to current emissions.

There are several techniques that have been used to capture CO2. These include: absorbing it with a sponge-like material; separating it with membranes; or cooling and condensing it using a cryogenic process. These processes all require high energy inputs, and once captured, the carbon dioxide is either stored or used. Storage involves the gas being transported to locations where it is injected deep underground into saline deposits or rock strata. Biden’s Administration on Environmental Quality said a CCS system that could meet a net zero goal of emissions by 2050 would require a pipeline system of close to 68,000 miles at a cost of $230 billion. The USA currently has 5100 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines.

Tenaska, a company with headquarters in Texas and Nebraska, recently announced that they will be receiving “an award of up to $69 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to assist with new CCS projects.” These include: seven carbon dioxide injection wells in West Virginia (Hancock, Brooke and Marshall) counties; twelve wells in Ohio (Jefferson, Harrison and Carroll counties); and three in Pennsylvania (Washington County). These wells would create 49 permanent jobs.

There is big money to made by the fossil fuel industry when it comes to carbon capture. Instead of being penalized for polluting, they are being paid. What a deal! Not all carbon dioxide captured is incentivized the same. Once captured, carbon dioxide can be stored underground in wells (CCS) or used for another process (CCUS). Currently, a majority of carbon captured and used for another process is for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). During this procedure, pressurized CO2 is pumped into old oil field wells to help force out any remaining oil deposits. The majority of the world’s 21 large-scale CCS plants are located in the USA and Canada, and all but five sell or send their carbon dioxide to facilities involved in enhanced oil recovery.

The Biden Administration is all in on CCS and CCUS projects and has even sweetened the pot. The Inflation Reduction Act increased tax credits from $35 to $85 per ton of CO2 captured and stored and $50 to $180 for every ton of CO2 removed through direct air capture and permanently stored. Companies get $60 ton for industrial CO2 captured and used for EOR and $130 ton for direct air CO2 used for EOR. We are subsiding the polluters’ emissions.

Industry claims that the carbon dioxide can be used for things besides EOR, for example, beverage carbonation. But according to a recent paper in Nature Climate Change, “the tonnage of CO2 humanity emits simply dwarfs the tonnage of carbon-based products it consumes.” Also consider that CCS only addresses the carbon dioxide emissions from stack gases. It does not curb methane gas emissions from fossil fuel extraction such as coal mines and fracking. It does not address additional sources of carbon dioxide emissions from transportation of equipment, construction of a CCS facility and the emissions from the CCS facility itself.

Carbon dioxide injected into rock strata can also contaminate ground and surface water as it combines with water creating carbonic acid. In many cases CCS facilities greatly increase the amount of water needed for power plants fitted with the technology. In addition to using more water, power plants fitted with CCS technology need more energy to power the CCS portion of the facility.

Finally, there are issues of safety involved in CCS, especially during the transportation portion. In 2019, in Yazo, Mississippi, a 24-inch carbon-dioxide containing underground pipeline ruptured. Over 300 people were evacuated and 46 people were treated at hospitals. The concentration of carbon dioxide was high enough to cause gas-powered car engines to stop. First responders said some people were unconscious while others wandered around like zombies.

Unlike solar and wind energy, which according to Clean Technica are “roughly displacing 35 times as much CO2 every year as the complete global history of CCS”, carbon capture technology is still in the early stages of development. It is not ready to be used in the scale necessary to curtail the climate crisis. It has however become a diversion used by the fossil fuel industry and governments to encourage the continued use of oil and gas while ignoring the climate crisis.

Do we want toxic carbon dioxide emissions stored in our national forests or our communities? Do we want more pipelines destroying the landscape? Please send a comment to the US Forest Service by January 2nd to let them know CCS is not a sustainable or safe way to use our forests.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pam Radtke December 19, 2023 at 1:45 am

Alarm at plan to stash planet-heating CO2 beneath US national forests

Article by Pam Radtke, The Guardian, December 7, 2023

Groups seek more time to comment on US Forest Service proposal to store carbon dioxide amid fears over safety and impact

The Sierra national forest in California could be affected by proposed changes to US Forest Service rules.

PHOTO ~ The Sierra national forest in California could be affected by proposed changes to US Forest Service rules.

A proposal that would allow industries to permanently stash climate-polluting carbon dioxide beneath US Forest Service land puts those habitats and the people in or near them at risk, according to opponents of the measure.

Chief among opponents’ concerns is that carbon dioxide could leak from storage wells or pipelines and injure or kill people and animals, as well as harm the trees in the forests and their habitat, said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“There are enough broad-ranging concerns with this rule that this isn’t the time to move forward and experiment when the consequences are so high,” said Bogdan Tejeda.

In 2020, a carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured in Mississippi, sending 49 people to the hospital.

The debate about the proposal in the US comes as the capture and storage of carbon to mitigate climate change is one of the talking points at the ongoing UN Cop28 climate summit in Dubai.

Concentrations of the gas, which is odorless and heavier than oxygen, can also prevent combustion engines from operating. Bogdan Tejeda worries that people even a mile or two from a carbon dioxide leak could start suffocating and have no way to escape.

Proponents of the proposal, however, say storage can be managed safely, and such regulatory changes are needed to meet the nation’s climate goals.

“The geologic storage of CO2 beneath federal lands offers a significant opportunity to catalyze a domestic carbon management industry that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating and maintaining high-paying jobs,” said Jessie Stolark, executive director of the Carbon Capture Coalition, a non-partisan collaboration of more than 100 companies, unions, conservation and environmental policy organizations.

Capturing carbon either from industrial processes that burn fossil fuels, or directly from the air, and storing it permanently underground is considered necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change under several scenarios. But not all underground spaces can permanently hold the carbon, which is injected hundreds of feet underground. So developers have been in a land grab of sorts in Louisiana, Texas and elsewhere for suitable underground so-called pore space.

Jim Furnish, a retired US Forest Service deputy chief who consults on forestry issues, said he was startled by the proposal. He said it was a reversal of historic Forest Service policy that only allows temporary use of Forest Service lands, usually for five to 20 years.

More broadly, the measure would “provide a powerful incentive to continue to burn fossil fuels”, Furnish said. “It’s the opposite of a virtuous cycle.”

PHOTO ~ A ruptured pipe in Satartia, Mississippi. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

Stolark says unless federal authorities provide clarity for carbon storage on federal lands, which comprise 30% of all US surface lands, the nation will not be able to meet 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The Forest Service manages about 193m acres in the United States. According to the US Geological Survey, suitable carbon storage space lies beneath about 130m acres of federal land, including that controlled by the Forest Service.

The Forest Service said the 3 November proposal would allow it to evaluate such permanent storage requests; it is not currently considering any specific proposals to store carbon under its lands. A spokesman said the agency previously received and denied applications for underground carbon storage on two forests in the south, an epicenter for carbon capture and storage proposals.

Any such project would have to follow US environmental laws, the service said. The Environmental Protection Agency would regulate the wells under its underground injection well program.

If the rule is finalized, disruptions to forests would begin long before any carbon dioxide was piped underground, said June Sekera, an economist and policy researcher at Boston University and the New School who has been studying carbon capture.

Drilling rigs and heavy equipment would be brought into forests to evaluate whether the spaces under the forests were suitable for carbon storage. Trees would have to come down to make way for that equipment, and many more trees would probably be felled to make way for the pipelines. Infrastructure for the injection wells would be permanent, she said.

“All of the other recreation and human uses of these forests are at odds with this type of use because this type of use is dangerous,” said Laura Haight, US policy director at Partnership for Policy Integrity, which focuses on forest issues.

Almost 200 carbon capture and storage projects have been proposed in the United States in the last five years, many spurred in the past year by increased incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act intended to address global warming.

The Forest Service, when contacted, did not respond to a question of how those incentives of up to $180 per ton of carbon stored would be handled if the carbon were injected under federal lands.

About 140 groups have asked the Forest Service to extend the 60-day public comment period on the proposal, which now ends on 2 January, for another 60 days. It would be, according to the groups, the first time the United States would permit CO2 to be injected under federal lands.

Jared Huffman, a California congressman who is the ranking member of the House natural resources subcommittee on water, wildlife and fisheries, said he also intends to call for an extension of the comment period. Huffman called the measure a “sacrifice of public lands as a life support for fossil fuels”.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: