Carbon capture and storage coming to Tri-State Area

April 22, 2024

Regions long familiar with oil and gas drilling, Eastern Ohio and the Tri-State Area are preparing for a new form of drilling, one that would insert materials underground rather than extract what’s already there.

Known as carbon capture and storage, the process is meant to be a solution for carbon dioxide emitted by industrial sources, capturing the compressed chemical compound and storing it underground where it can’t escape.

In addition to being a common industrial byproduct, CO2, when emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere, can trap outgoing heat energy from the planet’s surface. That effect is why the Environmental Protection Agency regulates CO2 emissions in the U.S., with more stringent regulations expected.

How the process can help is by providing storage, either temporary or permanent, for vast amounts of CO2 as an alternative to seeing them being released into the atmosphere.

In carbon capture, CO2 is captured and compressed at an industrial source — anywhere that produces the chemical compound, from power plants to manufacturing facilities — before being transported to a separate well site, usually through a pipeline.

From there, the CO2 is injected into specific deep rock formations, chosen for their porousness and surrounding impermeable rock formations that prevent the CO2 from leaching out. The CO2 will remain inside those formations unless purposefully drawn back to the surface for use as industrial feedstock, or the well may be capped off permanently.

As demand for such CO2 solutions and federal support for the technology increases, more companies are beginning development of their own CCS ventures. Tenaska is one such company, and it’s particularly interested in the CCS potential of Eastern Ohio and the Tri-State Area.

Headquartered in Omaha, Neb., and employing as many as 800, Tenaska is a privately held, integrated energy company with more than 35 years of experience in developing energy generation facilities, from natural gas to solar and wind. A member of the Global CCS Institute, a think tank composed of governmental and corporate bodies, Tenaska has three CCS hub projects named and being developed in Alabama, Texas and the Tri-State Area.

The latter project, called the Tri-State CCS Hub, is concentrated on the transportation and storage links in the CCS chain. The hub’s reach is planned to encompass Carroll, Harrison and Jefferson counties in Ohio; Hancock and Marshall counties in West Virginia; and Washington County in Pennsylvania.

According to a fact sheet from Tenaska, between 14 and 20 above-ground injection wells are planned for the hub. The company said six wells are slated for Jefferson County; four for Marshall County; and three each in Hancock, Harrison, Carroll and Washington counties.

Ryan Choquette is Tenaska’s director of engineering and a member of the company’s project development group for energy and infrastructure. According to Choquette, the project’s target is to transport, through a high-pressure steel pipeline system, 5 million metric tons of CO2 per year. For scale, Choquette said, the U.S. as a whole currently sees about 80 million metric tons of CO2 movement across 5,000 miles of pipeline per year.

Tenaska’s profit comes through indefinitely storing CO2 for industrial facilities that seek to mitigate their CO2 emissions, said Bret Estep, Tenaska’s vice president of development. For those companies, Estep said, Tenaska provides “credible, safe storage of CO2.”

“We, as Tenaska, transport and store that (CO2) in reliable, safe, deep, durable storage complexes underground. … There’s a demand for it in the market, and as an energy company, that’s what we seek to do — meet those various industry needs through large, complicated infrastructure projects.”

Choquette said Tenaska utilizes a four-part criteria to determine where to locate a project: Does the region have suitable geology, are there CO2 emitters nearby, is it a competitive landscape for similar work and would the project be “practical and feasible” in the region.

Tenaska and other CCS companies look for a “layer cake” of impervious geologic layers, according to Choquette. Impervious layers like shale surround porous layers like sandstone or dolomite, which are filled with small, interconnected holes that allow the CO2 to fill in.

Companies are permitted to inject CO2 into these porous layers by the EPA — which classifies each facility as a Class VI well — provided safety requirements are met, such as the cap layers’ impermeability, Choquette said.

Choquette said Appalachia has many industries — steel, cement, power and others — that could benefit from Tenaska’s CCS services.

“There’s a wide variety of industry verticals present inside and near the project area, and those present themselves as future customers to us,” he said.

The amount of pipeline Tenaska will construct to meet its target CO2 goal will be on an as-needed basis, dependent on the wells’ locations relative to the emitters. Timberly Ross, senior director of communications for Tenaska, said the Tri-State Area was attractive to Tenaska because the large emitter presence would minimize pipeline construction.

Regarding specific well locations, the hub project is in pre-development stage, characterized by working to secure partnered emitters and the acquisition of land for well sites, said Scott Murray, project manager of the Tri-State CCS Hub project.

Murray and his team have had conversations with local landowners about the specific types of contracts Tenaska is seeking, Estep said, noting that Tenaska also utilizes contracted land agents who are familiar with their communities and have a longstanding relationship with Tenaska on other initiatives.

Murray said a number of contracts are waiting on finalization. Contracts are divided into three categories: Surface contracts for the well itself, which takes up about an acre above ground and dives as far as 10,000 feet underground; pore space contracts for property that CO2 expands into horizontally once underground; and right-of-way agreements.

According to a fact sheet from Tenaska, up to 80,000 acres of pore space will be utilized in the region. A single well could horizontally reach to 10,000 feet and each property where pore space is used requires its own contract, Murray said, adding that a property can house horizontal oil and gas drilling and injection well technology simultaneously, but the two would need to ensure contracts do not interfere with one another.

“All of the infrastructure and work is mostly done underground, where it’s not going to be disturbing … what’s going on at the surface level,” Murray said. “(The wells will be) very deep and well below any potential drinking water sources.”

Tenaska expects to begin drilling initial test wells and test stratigraphic wells next year, Murray said, and operations are scheduled to begin fully as early as 2027.

Aiding Tenaska is a partnership with the Department of Energy, which awarded the company $69 million to help overcome initial financial burdens.

Within communities where contract negotiations are taking place, Tenaska has been meeting with county commissioners and economic development agencies to “provide upfront visibility into what we’re doing,” Murray said.

Tenaska has an office at 210 Three Springs Drive, Suite 2, Weirton — and another opening soon in Cadiz — staffed and open where individuals can ask questions about the project.


Christopher Dacanay
Staff writer
[email protected]

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