Biden Govt Plans Carbon Capture Mandate for Power Plants

Biden Govt Plans Carbon Capture Mandate for Power Plants
The Biden administration is proposing emission reduction standards for fossil fuel-run electricity stations.
Image by NicoElNino via iStock

The administration of President Joe Biden is proposing emission reduction standards for fossil fuel-run electricity stations that may require plants to be equipped with carbon-trapping technology.

This follows policies by the current government toughening environmental safeguards in the energy supply chain, as well as promoting renewables, to curb planet-warming gas emissions and achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday in a press release its new proposal can prevent the leak into the atmosphere of up to 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2042, “which is equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, roughly half the cars in the United States”.

The planned regulation, which has yet to be presented to stakeholders for consultation, would mandate power mill operators to deploy carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) solutions and allow the co-firing of hydrogen, which is considered to have a lower climate footprint.

“EPA’s proposal relies on proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future”, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in the announcement.

The agency added: “EPA’s analysis found that power companies can implement the standards with a negligible impact on electricity prices, well within the range of historical fluctuations”.

The EPA plans to enforce the proposal by 2030.

Performance Standards

Part of the proposal is a revised New Source Performance Standards for gas-powered stationary combustion turbine electricity plants and coal-powered steam-generating facilities.

The EPA wants gas-run stations to use lower-emission fuels such as natural gas, distillate oil and hydrogen; directly capture and sequester their emissions; and run on highly efficient generation tech.

“It should be noted that utilization of highly efficient generation is a logical complement to both CCS and co-firing of low-GHG [greenhouse gas] hydrogen because, from both an economic and emissions perspective, that configuration will provide the greatest reductions at the lowest cost”, a pre-publication version of the proposal stated.

For coal-fired steam plants, the EPA is proposing CCS and natural gas co-firing.

“The EPA is proposing that for units that expect to operate in the long-term (i.e., those that plan to operate past December 31, 2039), the BSER [best system of emissions reduction] is the use of CCS with 90 percent capture of CO2 [carbon dioxide] with an associated degree of emission limitation of an 88.4 percent reduction in emission rate (lb CO2/MWh-gross basis)”, the pre-publication version said.

For coal steam plants that continue to operate after 2031 but permanently stop operation before 2040, “the EPA is proposing that the BSER is co-firing 40 percent natural gas on a heat input basis with an associated degree of emission limitation of a 16 percent reduction in emission rate (lb CO2/MWh-gross basis)”.

The BSER for those that permanently shut down before 2032 would be “routine methods of operation and maintenance with an associated degree of emission limitation of no increase in emission rate (lb CO2/MWh-gross basis)”.

Pollution Control

Besides cutting GHGs, the proposal also hopes to avoid pollutants that endanger people’s health and the environment.

“The proposals would also result in cutting tens of thousands of tons of particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide, harmful air pollutants that are known to endanger people’s health, especially in communities that for too long have disproportionally shouldered the burden of high pollution and environmental injustice”, the EPA said in Thursday’s press statement.

It said in 2030 alone the proposal could prevent about 1,300 premature deaths, over 300,000 cases of asthma attacks and 66,000 lost workdays.

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