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New Federal Rule Would Allow Carbon Injections on National Forest Land

Is carbon the new Botox? According to a newly written federal government rule, it seems that way.

Carbon waste is the issue at hand. And, the nation’s grasslands may be the next public land in the crosshairs.

Here’s what we know.

The Rule Is Written Clearly

With no modifications, this is what the currently drafted rule reads:

“To support responsible deployment of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS), the Forest Service is proposing an amendment to its regulations at 36 CFR 251.54 — Proposal and Application Requirements and Procedures to allow exclusive or perpetual right of use or occupancy (36 CFR 251.54(e)(1)(iv)) of National Forest System (NFS) lands for CCUS. 

This proposed rulemaking would amend initial screen criteria in existing regulations to allow for permanent carbon dioxide sequestration on NFS lands to support CCUS-related activities and will help meet the Administration’s priority of tackling the climate crisis.

To pontificate briefly, long-term containment and care for these injection sites haven’t been verified as fail-proof or 100% safe for the public as the years go by.

The Breakdown

The drafted rule is dramatic. Words like “exclusive,” “permanent,” and “perpetual” don’t bode well for environmentalists.

Furthermore, the “environmentally friendly” Biden administration is backing this drafted rule. Ironic, but them’s politics. 

Our national parks and lands are the first to suffer when we run out of pollution solutions.

 How Do You Store Carbon Dioxide Underground?

Storing carbon dioxide (CO₂) underground, a process often referred to as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or geological sequestration, is a technique aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. 

The process typically involves three main steps: capture, transport, and storage. Here’s a simplified overview of how CO₂ can be stored underground:

Capture: Before CO₂ can be stored, it needs to be separated and captured from the emission sources, such as power plants and industrial facilities. This can be done using several techniques, including post-combustion capture, pre-combustion capture, and oxyfuel combustion.

Transport: Once captured, the CO₂ is compressed and transported, typically via pipelines, to the storage site. Transportation might also involve ships or trucks if pipelines aren’t feasible.

Storage: CO₂ is then injected deep underground, typically more than one kilometer deep, into rock formations that can securely and permanently store the CO₂. The main types of geological formations suitable for CO₂ storage are:

  1. Saline Aquifers: These are porous rock formations filled with brine (very salty water) and are often found deep below the surface. They are considered a good choice for CO₂ storage because they are widespread and can store large volumes of CO₂. The saline water in the formation provides a barrier that helps trap the CO₂.
  2. Depleted Oil and Gas Fields: These are rock formations from which hydrocarbons (oil and gas) have been extracted. Since these reservoirs once held hydrocarbons securely for millions of years, they are considered suitable for storing CO₂. Moreover, CO₂ injection can also enhance the recovery of residual oil or gas, a process known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).
  3. Unmineable Coal Seams: CO₂ can be stored in coal beds that are too deep or too uneconomical to mine. The CO₂ is adsorbed onto the coal, displacing methane that can be extracted and used as a source of energy.

Monitoring and Verification: After CO₂ is injected, the site is closely monitored to ensure that the CO₂ remains securely stored. This involves checking for any signs of leakage, measuring CO₂ levels in the atmosphere and groundwater nearby, and using various technologies like seismic imaging to track the movement of CO₂ underground.

Closure and Post-closure: Once a storage site is filled to its capacity and no more CO₂ is being injected, it is closed. The wells used for injection are sealed, and the site continues to be monitored for an extended period to ensure the CO₂ remains secure.

Challenges with underground storage of CO₂ include:

  • Ensuring long-term containment.
  • Managing the potential for induced seismicity.
  • Addressing any local environmental or health concerns. 

Nonetheless, with proper site selection, monitoring, and management, CCS offers a solution to help reduce global CO₂ emissions.

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