New pipeline hopes to curb carbon dioxide

December 16, 2009 9:16:35 PM PST
World leaders gathered in Denmark are nearing the end of what was supposed to be a history-making climate change conference. The deal could've had huge impacts on Houston's energy industry. Instead it seems it is falling apart two days before President Barack Obama's arrival on Friday. We found some local companies already moving forward with ways to slow the potential man made impacts on global warming.

Many, but not all, scientists believe it is carbon dioxide contributing to global warming and are trying to find ways to lower the CO2 in our air.

We breathe carbon dioxide out from our lungs and our cars spit it out in exhaust. But coal-fired power plants and refiners are also huge emitters of CO2 and one of the ways to limit that is to simply take it out of the stacks and put into the ground. It's called carbon sequestration and it may be catching on here in Texas.

This part of the potential global warming solution is all unfolding in east Texas where oilmen have been working on new energy projects since 1901 when the Spindletop first gushed just down the road.

This project, an $800 million, 124-mile long pipeline, is just the latest east Texas energy innovation. The pipeline will go from an underground carbon dioxide reserve in Louisiana to an oil field in Alvin, along the way purposefully passing several industrial plants that emit carbon dioxide into our air.

It's the same way these pipelines have been built for years, but the difference is what goes inside and the benefit it could have not just for the company but for all of us when it comes to global warming.

At first, the CO2 will be used to get new oil out of old wells. It's a technique that's been used for decades, but that's just half of the reason behind this pipeline project.

"It's more domestic energy in the U.S. while also providing the social benefit of sequestering CO2 or other green house gases in the process," said Tracy Evans, CEO of Denbury Resources, the company building the pipeline.

He says eventually he wants to take CO2 from power plants and refineries, put it into his new pipeline and then pump it into the ground. Evans wants the oil the CO2 would force out, but as an added benefit the CO2 would stay down in the ground, safely out of the atmosphere forever.

"Our goal is to provide a solution for those who want to capture CO2 and sequester it," said Evans.

University of Houston Professor Christopher Liner is trying to make carbon sequestration a reality.

"It's a really daunting task to make a dent in this," said Liner.

He's not working on the pipeline project, but he likes the idea.

"I don't know of any other similar project, so this is on the cutting edge. They will use the money from the enhanced oil recovery to do the sequestration. It's very clever that way," Liner said.

Denbury's green pipeline won't be finished until 2011and there aren't any firm deals for manmade CO2 to be pumped in it yet, but the company is betting $800 million there will be.

As world leaders meet to potentially force companies to cut carbon emissions, having a pipeline run past your front door that can do just that could be a big punch in the fight against global warming. It's not the entire answer, but could be a part of the solution.


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