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Renewable Energy Vision
Expert analysis on the most pressing issues facing the renewable energy sector in the U.S and abroad from ACORE staff, members and supporters.

Monetize CO2 Emissions From Power Plants

Published on 12 Aug 2014  |   Written by    |  

The fastest way to have quick adoption of carbon reductions is to have all the parties making money at it, that’s the American way. 

While USEPA new carbon rules are a step in the right direction, they are too cautious and ignore one of the most promising solutions available to the marketplace.  There is a huge opportunity for algae companies to use CO2 emissions to produce environmentally friendly, renewable transportation fuels.  This approach is called Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU).  Algenol can take 1 tonne of CO2 and convert it into 144 gallons of ethanol and clean crude at a cost of $1.30 per gallon, while also displacing fossil fuels.  Beyond the CO2, all we need is sun, salt water and non-arable land.  In fact, we can produce 8,000 gallons of fuels per acre per year, compared to 420 gallons for corn ethanol.  Because we make valuable products, we can pay for the CO2 and help utilities monetize CO2 emissions that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere.  The potential is huge.   If 80 US coal fired power plants were retrofitted to supply CO2 for Algenol’s Direct to Ethanol® technology, we could theoretically replace 15% of the nation’s fuel transportation needs[1].   Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) applications have proven that carbon monetization is a good business.  Last year, more than 60 million tons of natural and anthropogenic CO2 have been captured, transported and injected into EOR fields, for a total market exceeding $2 billion.  Algenol could pay the utilities and the ratepayers and still make a profit on a competitively priced clean domestic fuel. 


CCS has many critical issues to overcome before it could be scaled and legally implemented within the next 20 years.  USEPA could go a long way in providing an additional market responsive option that can be scaled and implemented now, providing real GHG reduction in the near term.  The USEPA needs to send a clear, long-term regulatory signal critical to the emergence of a carbon economy by including CCU as a legitimate pathway for states to hit their 2030 GHG goals.  We are confident we can help alleviate the burdens of taxpayers, ratepayers, shareholders and consumers by successfully implementing this market based solution that could also do far more to clean our atmosphere than anything else under consideration.   We call on USEPA to move beyond riding the natural gas boom and advocating costly and premature solutions like carbon sequestration, and embrace proven carbon utilization strategies that support its own core waste management principles from the Pollution Prevention Act of reducing and recycling waste.


If Americans are faced with $50 - $60 billion a year in CO2 underground storage costs, fees or penalties, that is a sure fire way to have slow or no adoption of CCS, and minimal atmospheric carbon reductions. 

The job of the EPA is to protect our environment, we cannot wait 30 years for CCS.  CCU can be now.

[1] Assuming an average plant capacity of 500 MW with emissions of 3 million tons per year and unconstrained availability of land.

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