Comments sought on coal-to-oil plant's CO2 emissions
A lot more.
Last week, DOE announced that it was opening a 45-day comment period on a supplement to the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gilberton Coal-to-Clean Fuels Project. It issued the supplement to correct an error in the original EIS that put atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions from the plant at 832,000 tons per year. As it turns out, DOE failed to account for the concentrated CO2 stream flowing from the facility's gas cleanup system -- a whopping 1,450,000 tons of CO2 for total annual emissions of 2,282,000 tons per year. To put that amount in perspective, consider that a recent study estimated global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in 2003 at just over 28 billion tons.
Because I submitted comments on the original EIS, DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory sent me a copy of the supplement, which is also available on NETL's Web site here. DOE reconsidered its original analysis after several commenters raised concerns about CO2. One of the those commenters -- the Natural Resources Defense Council -- wrote four letters and met with DOE officials to share concerns about the plant's emissions. The commenters succeeded in getting DOE to reconsider its original statement, the supplement says:
In considering these comments, DOE found that the annual rate of CO2 emissions reported in the Draft EIS included only the total quantity of CO2 that would be emitted directly from the proposed facilities. The reported quantity did not include a larger quantity of CO2 in a concentrated stream exiting the Rectisol unit that would also be emitted. It was previously anticipated that this stream would be sold; however, the industrial participant has informed DOE that the commercial sale of the CO2 would not occur in the foreseeable future, and therefore, all of the CO2 would be emitted to the atmosphere.(For more on the Rectisol process, click here.)
The supplement also discusses the feasibility of carbon sequestration, or underground storage, which DOE says would entail either piping it to a site in Western Pennsylvania or into local unmineable coal seams, though it acknowledges the latter alternative couldn't accommodate the facility's lifetime CO2 production, estimated at 72 million tons. NRDC urged DOE to consider sequestration, noting that the Gilberton project is funded by the Bush administration's Clean Coal Power Initiative, which aims to develop low-emissions coal technologies. As NRDC Climate Center Policy Director David Doniger wrote in a Feb. 7, 2006 letter to DOE:
As the source of federal funds for the project, DOE is obligated to factor climate change considerations into its EIS for the Gilberton plant. The CCPI's goals of fostering commercially viable, environmentally acceptable technologies for coal generated energy cannot be met by ignoring the increased CO2 emissions from demonstration projects and NRDC submits this technology cannot be demonstrated to be commercially viable and environmentally acceptable without demonstrating application of [CO2 capture and storage] part of this project.DOE's move to release a fresh accounting of the Gilberton project's climate impact comes as sustainable energy advocates are asking Congress to slash funding for its coal technology research; that would spell disaster for the Gilberton project, which is heavily dependent on government subsidies. In a Dec. 27 letter delivered to Congressional leaders, more than 100 representatives of various business, consumer and environmental organizations asked that federal energy research and development funds be shifted away from fossil fuel and nuclear power programs toward initiatives supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency. Among the programs they specifically asked Congress to cut was the Clean Coal Power Initiative, which got $50 million in Fiscal Year 2006.
DOE invites interested parties to submit comments on the supplement during the 45-day comment period that begins tomorrow, Jan. 16. Comments may be mailed to Janice L. Bell, NEPA Document Manager, U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, M/S 58-247A, P.O. Box 10940, Pittsburgh, PA 15236. They can also be faxed to 412-386-4806 or e-mailed to email@example.com.
For more information about the Gilberton project from the company promoting it (Waste Management and Processors Inc., headed by local waste-coal baron John W. Rich Jr.), visit www.ultracleanfuels.com. For more from Schuylkill Taxpayers Opposed to Pollution, which is fighting the project, visit www.ultradirtyfuels.com.
Labels: coal to oil