Mississippi and the emerging carbon storage industry

For decades, the natural resources of an extinct volcano called Jackson Dome, some 3,000 feet below Mississippi’s capital city, have given the state a role in a multi-state oil-drilling business.

The operation, known as enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, takes natural carbon dioxide from the Dome, sends it through a pipeline to oil fields in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and injects the CO2 into the ground to push oil for production.

Now, as the US government tries to encourage reductions in emissions from industrial sources, Mississippi lawmakers hope the same pipeline, owned by Denbury Inc., will give the state a new role in the emerging carbon capture business. .

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is an expensive method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in which a company separates CO2 from the other gases it produces and then transports it to a storage site where it is injected into the ground for permanent storage.

While CCS has been around for years, it was too expensive for companies to consider without any incentive. But in 2018, the federal government enacted a tax credit that greatly expanded the incentives for issuers.

Mississippi House Energy Speaker Rep. Brent Powell, R-Brandon, explained that businesses hoping to receive the tax credit could relocate to the state and use their existing pipeline for storage.

“What we’re hoping with this is that landowners and the public can get some storage royalties, but we’d really like to see some industry come into the state that’s close to the pipeline,” Powell said, specifying power. and fertilizer plants as businesses he imagines dumping their carbon in Mississippi.

Under the program, both surface and mineral rights owners would be compensated, said Powell, who drafted the bill.

Earlier this year, Governor Tate Reeves signed House Bill 1214, a bill that would allow the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board to oversee a carbon storage program in the state.

The US Environmental Protection Agency currently regulates carbon storage wells in most parts of the country, but now states are hoping to gain the authority to meet growing local interest.

The Oil and Gas Board first has to get clearance from the EPA, which it plans to apply for by the end of the year, the board told Mississippi Today. So far, only Wyoming and North Dakota have such a program, according to the Carbon Capture Coalition.

David Snodgrass, chief geologist for the Oil and Gas Board, said eminent domain will not apply to carbon storage in Mississippi. Eminent domain, which was restricted in the state after a 2011 ballot initiative, gives the government the power to take private property for a public use project without the owners’ consent. Companies looking to build a carbon pipeline or storage wells would first have to seek approval from a majority of property owners.

The new law allows the Oil and Gas Board to move forward with the project without majority approval, but Powell said it would only apply if there are absentee or unresponsive owners.

“If a guy is adamant, ‘You’re not going to cross my property,’ the Board will not allow (the company) to cross his property,” Powell said.

Experts suggest that Mississippi, as well as its neighboring states, are prime carbon storage locations due to their geology.

Susan Hovorka, a research scientist at the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences, explained that pore space — tiny openings between grains of rock in the ground where gas can be stored — gives the Gulf Coast region a advantage over the rest of the world. country.

“The Gulf Coast states are particularly well endowed, when you look at the maps of pore space availability, these states shine as winners,” Hovorka said. “There are other states that have opportunities, but the Gulf Coast states’ opportunity is particularly great.”

Starting in 2008, Hovorka and other scientists conducted one of the first large-scale carbon storage tests in the US at an oil field near Natchez owned by Denbury Inc.

Hovorka said that while the program is new to most of the world, there is a well-established practice for safely storing carbon.

“People can have some confidence because this is not something new that is being done for the first time,” he said, mentioning the world’s first commercial capture and storage project in Norway that began in 1996.

But storing carbon and transporting it are two different things.

Last month, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, the federal agency in charge of pipeline safety, announced its findings from a 2020 gas leak in Satartia, Mississippi. The report found multiple faults on Denbury’s part and proposed a $3.9 million penalty against the company.

After the episode in Sataria, some advocates question whether the country is prepared for increased demand for carbon transport.

While both Powell and Snodgrass have referred to the company as supportive of starting a program in the state, Denbury officials told Mississippi Today it’s too early to say whether carbon storage will begin in the state. Denbury is currently securing slots in other Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana and Alabama, but likely won’t start stocking until 2025.

“I would say it’s premature,” said Dan Cole, Denbury’s vice president of carbon capture, utilization and storage. “We’re certainly looking at, are there any good potential storage sites in Mississippi?”

Cole said Denbury would look for large parcels with few owners. He added that the company would use its existing EOR pipeline as long as it met capacity needs to transport carbon.

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