Watching the sausage get made at the EPA

The EPA held a "Public Workshop to Discuss Management of Underground Injection of Carbon Dioxide for Geologic Sequestration Under the Safe Drinking Water Act" last week. I've talked about this issue before here. This process continues to not get the attention it deserves as it may drastically effect drinking water quality. The workshop is a decent look at part of the 'sausage making' process so here are some random thoughts (the quotes aren't quotes, they're paraphrased but I blockquoted them for clarity).

EPA:

We can regulate the injection but can't use the Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate indirect risks to drinking water.

Isn't it nice when they just come out and tell you they can't protect drinking water? I find this refreshing. And yes, I RO the drinking water in my house.

EPA:

Maybe the states can do it!

Punting when you're down by 40 rarely saves the game.

Dude for BP:

Very pure CO2 is needed for injection. CO2 is ~15% out of the stack so it will take a lot of energy to purify it.

So we need to produce more energy to clean up the energy we are producing. How's the view from down the rabbit hole? Also, does this remind anyone else of using ethanol for fuel?

Mutiple people:

CO2 wont necessarily contaminate ground water.

Well, I feel better.

Panelist (I think AWWA):

We may need even currently non-potable water in the future (I think he was refering to salty water in the west) and we should be careful about putting CO2 near any areas that might be used in the future.

Didn't you hear the EPA? We can't protect water! It's not like it's a precious resource or anything. Kudos.

Panelists (now using brains):

Speaking of salty water, wont the high pressure injections make salt leach into current water sources making them non-potable?

Other panelists (not using brains; or using them for evil):

You don't know that. Maybe good things, like better water, will be leached in.

Yeah, that's the way it always works. Someone injects some crap into your ground water and you've got better water and less cancer. It's like that hcivokcorB nirE movie.

Everybody (all together now!):

We need more research.

Ooooo. Stunner.

Some other panelist:

Mitigation is actually pretty easy. Just decrease the pressure.

Hey, that's actually some good news. Does it make me too cynical to admit that I don't really believe it can be that easy?

Group discussions:

It seems that some drinking water will be contaminated no matter what.
Um, what about earthquakes
Who takes care of a mess once the injection is done?

I'm going to stop here but to give you an overall sense for what these things are like: Everybody seems to think that there are a lot of reasons for not allowing this to go forward, but the very fact that there is a process almost assuredly means it's going forward in some manner. It's like an avalanche, it's quite possible you could divert it the smallest bit by massive amounts of work, but it's going to the bottom of the hill whether you like it or not. A couple of times people mentioned that someone should weigh the risks of injected CO2 to the risks of keeping it in the air. Although no friend to global warming, it seems pretty stupid to inject it. But it sounds cool, so let's just go with the flow.

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1. It's 15% because most of the gas out of the stack is nitrogen. This could be increased by ditching the N2 BEFORE burning or after.

2. You are going to be a lot more specific about the pollution of the water from the other things in the emitted gas rather than CO2. The CO2 part can be buffered fairly easily.

I'm going to stop here but to give you an overall sense for what these things are like: Everybody seems to think that there are a lot of reasons for not allowing this to go forward, but the very fact that there is a process almost assuredly means it's going forward in some

This author is VERY angry - which can lead to irrational thinking. I recommend a visit to a good therapist!

Why is it that our water needs any kind of chemicals. What happened to just pure purified water, cleaned the natural way.

We may need even currently non-potable water in the future (I think he was refering to salty water in the west) and we should be careful about putting CO2 near any areas that might be used in the future.

I'm going to stop here but to give you an overall sense for what these things are like: Everybody seems to think that there are a lot of reasons for not allowing this to go forward, but the very fact that there is a process almost assuredly means it's going forward in some manner.

EPA should tell to people that some changes are in their lifestyle can save the earth. Everyone is saying that pollution is increasing day by day but nobody is doing nothing to stop it.

no amount of changes in lifestyle are going to make that big an impact. 40% of our CO2 emissions from from burning coal to make electricity. Just so you know know much that is, at sea level pressure it's enough to blanket the entire united states from coast to coast, canada to mexico just a little over a foot deep. Thats a LOT of gas and they are going to compress it and pump it underground? Umm... Color me skeptical.

Shame we don't have some other source of baseload generation that doesn't generate any CO2 or much of any other waste at all. Were a marble sized ball of the fuel would replace 3 coal cars worth of fuel in a traditional plant. Where you refuel from a single 18 wheeler truck once every 18 months rather than a mile and a half long coal train every 3 days. Where even after producing that energy 94% of the marble is recyclable into new marbles of fuel with no new technology or breakthroughs needed other than calling up France and asking them how they do it. Where since 1950 we've made only enough of it to cover a single football field 14 feet high in 60 years. If you think thats a lot of dangerous stuff google for the Tennessee ash pit spill last year.

Then when you replace that 40% (which would take less than 10 years to put coal completely out of business in spite of what they tell you) you could generate enough more to charge your cars and begin to reduce our emissions of toxic garbage even further as we continue to grow economically and industrially.

Shame we don't have something like that... Or really, its a shame that we already have it but have let the coal and fossil fuel industry make us more afraid of it than of them...

By PlanetaryGear (not verified) on 15 Jan 2010 #permalink

We may need even currently non-potable water in the future (I think he was refering to salty water in the west) and we should be careful about putting CO2 near any areas that might be used in the future.