CRS recently issued a report on CO pipelines in a CCS world. Noting that, "there is an increasing perception in Congress that a national CCS program could require the construction of a substantial network of interstate CO2 pipelines," the report examines key uncertainties in CO2 pipelines for CCS by using hypothetical scenarios. There have been studies on CO2 pipelines for CCS, and while some suggest that the CO2 could be stored in reservoirs underlying the source, others suggest that it may need to be stored over 100 miles away. This CRS report takes these different scenarios into account.

The report focuses on pipeline development in the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP). This region covers northeast Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. All three scenarios examine the 11 largest sources of regional CO2 emissions annually. The first scenario focuses on a storage site called the Rose Run sandstone, which is a deep saline formation identified by the MRCSP as a possible sequestration site. If the Rose Run sandstone is deemed a viable sequestration site, many of the sources could inject CO2 directly below their facility. In this scenario, the longest pipeline formation would be 32 miles, with the average pipeline being 11 miles. The capital cost to construct an 11 mile long pipeline that could transport 10 million tons of CO2 annually would be $6 million. One major hang-up on the Rose Run sandstone is that its sequestration capacity is not conducive to something of this scale. Rose Run has permeability and thickness issues that will not allow it to efficiently sequester the CO2. In addition, the formation is relatively fractured which could lead to small earthquakes if injected with CO2.

The second scenario examines sequestration in unmineable coal beds, as well oil and gas fields. There are unmineable coal beds in the region of the MRCSP that could be suitable for sequestration; however, the capacity for storage in the coal beds is a small fraction of what could be held in the Rose Run formation. There are some oil and gas fields in the region as well. Potentially, the 10 largest of these fields could hold, on average, up to 251 million tons of CO2 - which is where the problem arises. Based on current emission levels the output of the 11 sources used for the study would be in the range of 270 to 491 million tons. While multiple fields could be used per source, multiple pipelines coming from each source would then be required, thus increasing the cost greatly.

The third and final scenario involves the Mt. Simon Formation. This formation is similar to Rose Run but it has over 4 times more storage capacity. The obstacle with this region is the need for lengthier pipelines. In this scenario the pipelines would range from 130 to 294 miles, with an average price tag of $150 million. This scenario would suggest that none of the 11 sources could sequester their CO2 in one of the other scenarios discussed, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case.

These different scenarios highlight many areas in which policy can have an impact. The report says, "These include concerns about CO2 pipeline costs, sitting challenges, pipeline and sequestration site relationships, and differences in sequestration potential among regions." One issue concerning the pipelines would be those that cross state lines. Currently, there is no federal law on this issue: it is up to the states. What one state sees as necessary, another state might not be interested in. The other main issue is obviously the cost. In August of 2007, Minnesota PUC rejected a plant proposal over a 450 mile pipeline to an Alberta oil field that came with the price tag of close to $650 million.