• Slider Image

What is Carbon Capture and Storage?
CCS is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere.

Once the CO2 has been captured from an industrial or power plant, it is compressed into a liquid state and transported via pipeline to a location where it is injected deep underground in geological formations.

Historically, CCS has predominantly been used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to extract crude oil from reserves that had been previously tapped out using standard drilling methods.

Not profitable until the IRA
Carbon capture for sequestration was not a profitable enterprise, until the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, when the Biden Administration increased the value of the 45Q tax credit by 70%.

The presence of the Mt. Simon Sandstone saline reservoir and shale caprock in Illinois make it a primary industry is target for storage.

  • Prairie State Energy Campus and gas electric generating plants view CCS as a potential lifeline for continuing to operate these facilities.
  • Corn growers and the Illinois Farm Bureau see CCS as an opportunity to continue to make ethanol profitable by using ethanol in sustainable aviation fuel.

Key concerns about carbon capture
Carbon capture facilities on power plants are underperforming (they are capturing less than promised), and there are not adequate performance standards at the Federal level to ensure CCS will operate as an effective climate strategy.

CCS will extend the life of heavily polluting facilities, at a time when we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. It also will prolong the pollution burden on EJ communities.

Requires an immense amount of water, especially at power plants.  Adding carbon capture to the Prairie State coal plant in Marissa, Illinois would require as much water as used by Ann Arbor residents each day.

CCS investments divert critical resources away from renewables.

Carbon pipelines differ from oil and gas
Carbon dioxide pipelines carry a toxic asphyxiant, not a source of energy.

At normal temperature and pressure CO2 is a gas. But with CCS, it is compressed into a liquid for efficient transport. It is highly pressurized (from 1,300 to 2,100 psi), which is two to three times that of natural gas.

It is a great solvent for hydrocarbons, seals in valves, etc., which is one reason why CO2 pipelines need design standards that differ from those of oil and gas pipelines.  CO2 pipelines also are sensitive to pollutants, especially water that turns CO2 into carbonic acid that rapidly corrodes steel pipe.

These characteristics make CO2 pipelines more prone to leak or rupture.  When a CO2 pipeline ruptures, the CO2 undergoes a phase change which then explodes into a high volume of extremely cold gas (-109oF).

CO2 pipelines are not safe
CO2 pipelines are more prone to running ductile fractures than oil or gas pipelines. Like a zipper, they run down a significant length of the pipe and release large amounts of CO2, hurl large sections of pipe and expel pipe shrapnel, and generate enormous craters.

CO2 is heavier than air and can travel large distances from the pipeline at lethal concentrations. The rupture that happened near Satartia in Yazoo County, Mississippi, created a 40-foot deep crater and covered the area with ice. When the gas warmed, it traveled more than a mile to the town of Satartia causing 200 people to be evacuated and 45 to be sent to the hospital. The gas displaced oxygen, which caused internal combustion engines to sputter and stop.

Federal Government and Rulemaking
After the rupture in Satartia, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) investigated the accident, and took enforcement action against Denbury Gulfcoast Pipeline LLC, the entity responsible for the accident.

PHMSA also initiated a rule-making process to improve safety and oversight of CO2 pipelines. The Pipeline Safety Trust prepared a document that identifies regulatory gaps that PHMSA needs to address.

PHMS's draft rule was forwarded to the White House Office of Budget and Management, who decided to host listening sessions.  It is expected that the rule will be modified, based on industry and public input, and then released for comment before the end of this year.

You can read the concerns the Coalition raised here.

What do we know about CO2? 
In normal room air, carbon dioxide percentages are very low (around 0.04%). It is a colorless, odorless, and nonflammable gas that accumulates near the ground (CO2 is 1.5 times heavier than air). 

Carbon dioxide not only can cause asphyxiation by hypoxia, but also can act as a toxicant. High CO2 concentrations can cause seizures, hearing and vision loss, respiratory dysfunction, disorientation, coma or even death - all within minutes. 

Concentrations of CO2 we need to be concerned about:
3%:                 Maximum 15-minute short-term exposure level
4%:                 Immediately dangerous to life and health.
5% to10%:     Unconsciousness, convulsions, coma and death

Table 1
Health Effects of CO2

Illinois regulates setbacks and eminent domain
PHMSA doesn't regulate routing; Illinois sets the route via the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). While the ICC looks at safety, the Commission does not look at the proximity of a CO2 pipeline to occupied buildings. This is a regulatory gap that leaves Illinoisans unprotected, causing developers like One Earth Sequestration, LLC to propose making oxygen tanks available to residents in case of emergency.

Similarly, the ICC grants eminent domain authority to developers of approved CO2 pipeline projects. There are no limits to the use of eminent domain, which is of great concern to landowners.

The recent passage of SB1289, the SAFE CCS Act, will require pipeline developers to use comprehensive, accurate modeling to identify impact areas and analyze risk, including the ability of first responders to rescue people before they succumb to the effects of CO2. The bill also requires the ICC to look at additional safety standards not included in PHMSA's rulemaking. The Coalition intends to use this opportunity to push the state to establish crtieria for safe setbacks, based on level and time of exposure to CO2 and the ability for first responders to rescue those in the path of a leak or rupture.

To date, the Coalition has been able to stop Navigator's CO2 pipeline, but Wolf Carbon Solutions and One Earth Sequestration, LLC, are expected to return to the ICC. We will continue to oppose pipelines, until such time as PHMSA has sufficiently improved safety and oversight, and the state has criteria for safe setbacks in place.


CO2 Pipeline networks may expand exponentially
Today, there are just 5,300 miles of short-run CO2 pipelines in the U.S. Most carry CO2 from a natural source and transport it to an oil well for enhanced oil recovery.

But funding for CCS by the federal government has changed all that. A variety of sources claim that a potential buildout of CO2 pipelines range from 30,000 to 96,00 miles. Major hubs would be located in Illinois.

While Midwest activists successfully stopped Navigator CO2 Ventures from moving forward, Summit Carbon Solutions' pipeline is moving full steam ahead. Their project has grown to over 2,500 miles, and would capture CO2 from 57 sources in five states.

How safe is sequestered CO2 ?
Supercritical CO2 displaces brine, when injected below the surface, and is more buoyant than surrounding liquids. It can escape along injection or abandoned wells or through fractures in the caprock (seal) that exist, or can occur in the future.

If it leaks, CO2 can contaminate aquifers; stunt crop growth, and release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, negating the reason it was captured, transported and stored in the first place.

It can take 1,000 years or more for CO2 stored in a saline aquifer to become inert, and no developer / operator can guarantee it will permanently remain underground.

Natural Earthquakes
Illinois is no stranger to earthquakes, and much of central and Southern Illinois is located in either the Ste. Genevieve, Wabash Valley or New Madrid Seismic zones. Earthquakes can damage wellbores or fracture rock, creating pathways for CO2 to escape confinement.

Here is a list of some of the natural earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface in recent months (source: USGS):

  • March 28, 2024 - M 2.8: 1 km NNE of Germantown, Illinois.
  • December 18 2023 - M 3.1: 5 km WNW of Waltonville, Illinois.
  • November 18, 2023 - M 3.6: 1 km SSW of Standard, Illinois.
  • October 2023 - M 2.6: 6 km SSE of Herrick, Illinois.
  • September 10, 2023 - M 2.7: 9 km E of Parkersburg, Illinois.

Induced Earthquakes
Injection of CO2 also can induce earthquakes large enough to damage the wellbore or break the caprock. We know injecting produced water from oil and gas production far below groundwater or aquifers causes earthquakes:

Scientists have expressed concern that injecting larger volumes of CO2, at higher pressures and for longer duration associated with CCS has an even higher probability of inducing earthquakes. But, U.S. EPA Class VI permitting does not address induced earthquakes.

Abandoned wells - another path for leakage
There are thousands of oil and gas wells across central and southern Illinois. This map shows only “orphaned wells” - unplugged wells - which total over 4,000.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says they believe there are more than 32,000 oil & gas wells in Illinois, but acknowledges they don’t know where all of them are:

  • Old wells can provide a pathway for CO2 to escape containment and rise to the surface.
  • Even “plugged wells” are at risk - carbonic acid can erode cement.

An old well released CO2 near a Wyoming school in 2017, requiring evacuation & school shutdown for months.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
Supercritical CO2 is highly pressurized. Once injected underground, it moves both laterally and vertically, putting pressure on weak spots of the containment area.

We don’t have a lot of history to show success:

  • It took 27 years before a CCS project in Norway began to leak and cause concern 
  • ADM has been sequestering CO2 for 12 years, but it is a small project storing an average of just 420,000 tons each year since 2016 (less than 1/2 of what was promised).

Projects in Illinois now being reviewed by the U.S. EPA are nearly 100 times the size of ADM’s Decatur project. One Earth Sequestration LLC's application shows it's project would be 23 times the size.

How can we be sure CO2 won’t leak? We can’t.

Image to the right: Not airtight. Heinrich Böll Foundation. CC-BY-SA 3.0