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Carbon sequestration could provide opportunity for Nebraska, senators told

Carbon sequestration could provide opportunity for Nebraska, senators told

A new study suggests that conventional vehicles can run on E-30 ethanol blends. If 10% of the state's vehicles switched to E-30, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 64,000 tons a year, a professor says.

LINCOLN — Nebraska would create a “win-win” for the state’s ethanol industry as well as climate change by facilitating the creation of a carbon capture and storage facility, state lawmakers were told Tuesday.

State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk said establishing a carbon sequestration facility in Nebraska would provide ethanol plants, coal-fired power plants and manufacturers a place to store their carbon dioxide emissions instead of releasing them into the atmosphere.

For an ethanol plant, storing its carbon would improve the “carbon score” for the corn-based fuel it produces, making it more attractive for sale to California, which seeks fuels produced with low carbon.

“When I can find a win-win (situation), I’m all for it,” Flood said.

His proposal, Legislative Bill 650, would set up the legal and regulatory framework for the development of carbon sequestration wells, which would be at least 2,600 feet deep and store carbon, in an intermediate gas/liquid state, in underground formations conducive to storage.

Matt Joeckel, the state geologist and director of the Conservation and Survey Division at the University of Nebraska, said prior studies have shown that there are areas of central and western Nebraska that have the right conditions for carbon storage.

Joeckel added that he is aware of a company that is exploring establishing a carbon storage facility at an ethanol plant in the state but emphasized that it’s still an emerging technology. There are two dozen such sequestration facilities worldwide, with one in the U.S., at Decatur, Illinois.

“It is vital that comprehensive geologic and engineering studies are done first,” Joeckel said. “It matters what rock formations you’re putting this into, down to the microscopic scale.”

Two state senators, John Cavanaugh of Omaha and Eliot Bostar of Lincoln, raised concerns about such a project before LB 650 advanced from first-round debate on a 41-0 vote.

Bostar questioned whether increased seismic activity could be sparked by injecting the carbon underground, as fracking has done in oil well regions of Oklahoma. Cavanaugh wondered how personal property rights might be impacted.

Flood said he would work to address any environmental concerns about carbon sequestration before the bill got to second-round debate. Joeckel, when asked later Tuesday about Bostar’s concern, said that carbon sequestration is quite different from fracking for oil, and that the risk would be “vastly” lower.

Flood said he introduced the bill because it could help rural Nebraska. Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, who represents an area that could be conducive for carbon sequestration, said it presents a tremendous economic opportunity.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, Flood said, would continue to have primary jurisdiction over carbon sequestration projects under LB 650. Two states, North Dakota and Wyoming, have passed bills to assume primary responsibility of carbon sequestration projects, he said.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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