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Published October 11, 2007 05:30 PM

EPA to develop rules for storing CO2 emissions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it will develop new rules governing how coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities sock away heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas in underground reservoirs.

Burying CO2 in underground reservoirs is not commercially available yet, but has emerged as one possible way to slow global warming's potentially catastrophic results including flooding, heat waves and severe storms.

The EPA said in a statement it will propose regulations next summer to "ensure there is a consistent and effective permit system under the Safe Drinking Water Act for commercial-scale geologic sequestration programs to help reduce the effects of climate change."

The gas could be captured at power plants that burn fossil fuels, including coal, the heaviest carbon dioxide emitter. About a third of U.S. CO2 emissions come from power plants and other large industrial sources.

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According to an Energy Department study, the United States and Canada have enough storage capacity deep underground to bury greenhouse gas from power plants for 900 years, but the costs are unknown.

Earlier this week the Energy Department unveiled funding for three large-scale carbon sequestration projects. The projects are estimated to cost $318 million total, and the Energy Department plans to pick up $197 million of the price tag over 10 years.

The projects will conduct large-volume tests for the storage of 1 million or more tons of CO2 in deep saline reservoirs, the department said.

Those projects are:

* The Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, led by the University of North Dakota, to store CO2 in the Alberta and Williston Basins.

* The Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, led by the Southern States Energy Board, will demonstrate CO2 storage in the lower Tuscaloosa Formation Massive Sand Unit. The geologic formation stretches from Texas to Florida and has the potential to store more than 200 years of CO2 emissions from major sources in the region.

* The Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration, coordinated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, will inject several million tons of CO2 into the Jurassic-age Entrada Sandstone Formation in the southwestern United States.

Separate projects already under way include the Weyburn Project in Canada, which uses CO2 captured during coal gasification in North Dakota for enhanced oil recovery; Norway's Sleipner Project in the North Sea; and the In Salah Project in Algeria, which stores CO2 in a natural gas field.

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