The Ohio River Valley Institute hosted a lengthy webinar on carbon capture and storage opportunities on Thursday.
The think tank leads “independent and non-partisan research”, according to its website, and works in the Ohio River Valley and western Pennsylvania. Its mission is to help the region by conducting research on vital issues and promoting clean energy “and more equitable civic structures”, indicates the site.
ORVI Executive Director Joanne Kilgour moderated a panel that included Principal Investigator Sean O’Leary, researcher and former financial analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis Kathy Hipple, researcher at New Consensus Justin Mikulka and Leigh Collins, Managing Editor at Recharge News, an international publication focused on renewable energy.
O’Leary opened the discussion by explaining what a hydrogen hub is, as such a development is proposed for the Ohio Valley.
“But the hydrogen hub is anchored by a technology called carbon capture and sequestration,” O’Leary started. “And what’s being proposed is that a number of factories, factories and other facilities across the region that are currently emitting large amounts of carbon will be paired with technology that captures that carbon.”
O’Leary said the carbon would then be transported by a “pipe network” which would be interconnected throughout the region with the various facilities. Injection points would be used to inject the harmful carbon into underground storage areas.
The Ohio Valley region is targeted because of its high production of natural gas and coal, which is “assigned” to create hydrogen, especially natural gas, he pointed out.
“We produce the product called blue hydrogen” through the process of carbon capture, he said. The name is given to him “theoretically” eliminate carbon emissions from hydrogen production. But the discussion indicated that the process is not cost effective or practical compared to other forms of energy.
He noted that some of these advanced ideas are hydrogen vehicles, heating buildings with hydrogen, and making cement and fertilizers or even refueling airplanes, for example.
“And so, in their world, the imaginary result of that will be that the demand for hydrogen consumption will probably be worsened by 10 to 20 times what it is now,” said O’Leary.
He said these ideas look awfully promising in the face of where “the consumption of natural gas for heating and for the production of electricity is largely stabilizing.”
O’Leary said this carbon capture technology to power our devices and structures would not stop there, but could also include power and petrochemical plants, he noted. But the caveat is that these plants should be retrofitted with carbon capture technology.
This would mean that various pipelines would come from the ground below these factories to transport the carbon to be stored underground.
The cost would be between $170 billion and $230 billion, he said, according to the White House Center for Environmental Quality.
“The problem that exists is that from an economic point of view, hydrogen, whether it’s clean hydrogen or the gray or dirty hydrogen that we’re using right now, frankly doesn’t make economic sense for most of the functions that people imagine”. O’Leary said, adding that electric technology is much more efficient and cost effective.
Collins noted another apparent hurdle in that a carbon capture rate of over 90% would be required for the technology to be worthwhile. And the amount projected in Biden’s bill is “not even close” to what is actually needed, according to O’Leary. He said the potential figure of $230 billion was only part of what was needed.
“We found that the capital cost to retrofit a gas or coal-fired power plant would cost between $1 billion and $2 billion per plant,” said O’Leary.
The discussion covered many aspects of various energy producers as an alternative, one being green hydrogen which he said cleans up emissions during “its making”.
“And it’s green hydrogen, which is made from water using a process powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind,” said O’Leary. “This type of hydrogen has both the potential to be sufficient in supply to meet all the needs that hydrogen is likely to impose on us in the future and, more specifically, it can do so at lower cost. “