Coalition Publishes Fact Sheet on CO2 Pipeline Safety & Federal Safety Authority
November 8, 2023 | Blog
The Carbon Capture Coalition published a fact sheet that details the historical safety record of CO2 pipeline operation in the US, and provides an overview of current safety standards as regulated under the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA). Also included in this fact sheet is a number of common-sense, Coalition-supported measures for policymakers to adopt as part of ongoing conversations to reform the pipeline safety and permitting regime. As these transport and storage networks scale to meet net-zero emissions targets, these systems must be designed, constructed, and maintained to meet rigorous standards, delivering the highest levels of reliability and safety.
As evidenced by multiple international climate assessments and recent historic levels of bipartisan federal policy support to incentivize the scale up of carbon management technologies, a substantial buildout of CO2 pipeline infrastructure is necessary to transport large quantities of CO2 from industrial facilities, power plants and direct air capture facilities to points of reuse or permanent geologic storage. For that to occur, there must be full public and policymaker confidence in the safety of CO2 pipelines and assurance that appropriate regulations and protocols are in place to prevent incidents of pipeline failures.
The Carbon Capture Coalition has long-supported rigorous safety design, inspection and maintenance protocols associated with CO2 capture, transport and storage infrastructure and recognizes the excellent historical safety record of such infrastructure—one that surpasses other climate-essential energy infrastructure such as electric transmission and distribution systems.
CO2 pipelines have been operating safely in the United States for more than 50 years, with over 5,000 miles of pipelines currently in operation – in some cases with individual pipelines safely transporting millions of tons of CO2 annually over hundreds of miles and across entire regions of the country. Since reporting began, CO2 pipelines have had a strong safety record, though a rare, but serious CO2 pipeline failure in Satartia, Mississippi in 2020 has increased public and policymaker concerns about pipeline safety and the overall reliability of these systems as they scale.
While safety data reported by PHMSA shows that CO2 pipelines have been and can be operated at the highest level of safety by best-practice industry operators, the Coalition supported the agency’s announcement to build upon the existing safety standards to ensure that all industry operators meet these high levels of safety operations, for every pipeline, every time.
As PHMSA works to issue additional proposed CO2 pipeline regulations, and Congress prepares to consider reauthorization of the nation’s pipeline safety laws, including key operating procedures and policies related to PHMSA, the Coalition offers the following recommendations to policymakers, as identified in our consensus 2023 Federal Policy Blueprint:
- Expand first responder safety training for CO2 pipeline safety incidents. As PHMSA prepares to enhance safety standards relating to CO2 pipeline infrastructure, the agency should update training programs for first responders of potential CO2 pipeline safety incidents. Additionally, this training should be expanded to include local hospital employees and 9-1-1 operators.
- Require that project proponents more rigorously consider potential geohazard impacts on CO2 pipelines during design, siting, construction, and maintenance. Geohazards are geological events that may cause loss of life or significant damage to property, including land subsidence from flooding, landslides, earthquakes, and other events. Additional considerations of these potential impacts would ensure that pipeline networks are resilient and continue to operate safely over time in a changing climate with more extreme weather patterns.
- Request that PHMSA conduct additional reporting on the public safety record of CO2 pipelines. Additional information from PHMSA with regard to the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure safety and regulatory environment would be helpful for policymakers and stakeholders to make informed decisions during project deployment. Congress should require PHMSA to provide a report containing further public information on the safety record of CO2 pipelines, an update on the current status of the CO2 pipeline regulatory regime including annual agency funding levels, and considerations for additional funding necessary for agency staffing as CO2 pipeline infrastructure projects are deployed. PHMSA has also identified areas of research needed on CO2 pipelines that may require additional agency funding, including the study of controlled releases on CO2 pipelines, which should also be included in this report. Additional areas of study may include assessment of the potential role existing or retired natural gas pipeline infrastructure could play in CO2 transport.
- Carry out a national assessment of the CO2 network necessary to meet net-zero emissions. Building off research conducted by stakeholder groups, the federal government should carry out a national assessment to quantify the capacity and miles of CO2 pipelines that may be required to meet net-zero emission goals.
In addition to the above recommendations, the Coalition-endorsed and 2018-enacted Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act mandated the formation of two regional task forces, to improve the performance of the permitting process for carbon management projects on both federal and non-federal lands. These task forces, co-led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of Energy, will play an important role in advancing the deployment of the full suite of carbon management technologies by informing a strong and efficient regulatory regime, grounded in both science and commercial experience.
The public and policymakers must have confidence that CO2 pipeline infrastructure can safely and responsibly scale to meaningfully contribute to our collective climate ambitions. The Coalition looks forward to working with bipartisan members of Congress and the administration to ensure that the necessary regulatory framework is in-place to ensure the responsible scale-up of this climate essential infrastructure.
The Carbon Capture Coalition is a nonpartisan collaboration of more than 100 companies, unions, conservation and environmental policy organizations, building federal policy support to enable economywide, commercial scale deployment of carbon management technologies. This includes carbon capture, removal, transport, reuse, and storage from industrial facilities, power plants, and ambient air. Members of the Coalition work together to advocate for the full portfolio of policies required to commercialize a domestic carbon management sector and inform policymakers as well as stakeholders on the essential role this suite of technologies must play in achieving these shared objectives.