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Biden pipeline rules target key carbon capture building link

New Biden administration regulations for carbon dioxide pipeline safety and nearly $4 million fine for pipeline rupture in 2020 seen as step toward carbon capture goals eyeing construction thousands of miles of pipeline, industry watchers said Friday.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration measures arrived Thursday with a long-awaited investigative report into the pipeline rupture from Plano, Texas-based Denbury Inc., which hospitalized at least 45 people in Satartia, Mississippi.

The incident has sparked national alarm over carbon pipeline safety and emergency response preparedness as the Department of Energy aims to spend billions on carbon technology to meet middle climate goals of the century.

“The pipeline network must expand in order to meet our climate needs, but it must be done safely,” said John Thompson, director of technology and markets at the Clean Air Task Force.

“To solve the most pressing climate issues, we will need to capture carbon, which will involve some pipelines – and as the pipeline network grows, we need to redouble our efforts on safety,” Thompson said. . “I think it’s a start.”

Huge misunderstanding

Climate advocacy groups are divided on the role of carbon capture in achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Proponents, led by the Biden administration and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, say the technology is key to decarbonizing heavy industry in the near future. Opponents, including environmental justice groups that have advised the White House, argue the technology locks down polluting fossil fuel infrastructure.

About 5,000 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines exist today, primarily carrying carbon dioxide to enhance oil drilling operations. The administration envisions a network of pipelines that connect to permanent geological storage sites, such as in the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Midwest.

A December 2020 study from Princeton University predicted 65,000 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines by 2050. Several large carbon pipeline projects have been proposed for the Midwest, generating local opposition.

“There’s a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about CO2,” said Charles McConnell, director of the Center for Carbon Management in Energy and Sustainability at the University of Houston. “And, in the context of the energy transition and the large-scale deployment of CCUS (carbon capture, use and storage), it is part of everyone’s future.”

PHMSA should work with industry to respond to safety concerns and local authorities to develop emergency response plans, said McConnell, who led the Energy Department’s office of fossil fuels from 2011 to 2013.

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Turn failures into rules

Entering the carbon pipeline fray this week, the pipeline agency offered its biggest ever fine for a host of likely violations by Denbury.

The agency discovered that a landslide was responsible for the rupture. He also listed likely violations, including: failure to promptly notify the National Response Center; failure to perform routine inspections of its rights-of-way; and the absence of written procedures for the conduct of normal operations and emergency response.

Details of the agency’s new regulations were not available Friday, and a PHMSA spokesperson did not have an estimate of when they will be made public.

“The safety of the American people is paramount, and we are taking steps to strengthen CO2 pipeline safety standards to better protect communities, our first responders and our environment,” said Tristan Brown, deputy administrator of the agency, in a press release.

The Department of Energy will incorporate PHMSA’s guidance into its portfolio of carbon capture projects, it said in a statement. It has $2.1 billion to fund the transportation of captured carbon dioxide from industrial facilities, power plants and future direct air capture facilities to permanent geological storage sites.

“Advancement of critical CO2 transport infrastructure and carbon management technologies will be necessary” to achieve climate goals, the department said.

Seek public trust

The agency’s actions so far strike the right balance between solving problems and growing the technology, carbon capture advocates have said in statements and interviews.

In order to expand infrastructure, “there must be complete public and decision-maker confidence in the safety of CO2 pipelines,” said Jessie Stolark, public policy and member relations manager for the Carbon Capture Coalition. .

Carbon pipelines have an “excellent overall safety record, easily outperforming other climate-critical energy infrastructure, such as electrical transmission and distribution systems,” Stolark said.

The energy industry struggles to deal with earth moving events and “geohazards” on pipelines carrying various substances.

“Pipeline operators have an initiative to address the challenges associated with geohazards in all pipeline operations, including CO2 pipelines,” said Robin Rorick, vice president of interim policy at the American Petroleum Institute. “We are committed to ensuring safe operations in coordination with PHMSA.”

The Pipeline Safety Trust, a watchdog group skeptical of carbon pipelines, called on the agency to take broad action.

“The list of proposed new CO2 pipeline projects seems to be growing every week, making it all the more important to immediately modernize our safety rules,” Bill Caram, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement. “It is encouraging that PHMSA recognizes the risks and regulatory gaps and is taking action to protect our communities.”