Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 1 CCS Conference

This is day 1 of the DOE-sponsored carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My first trip to Pitt and I took some time yesterday and today to walk around and get a feel for the place. The Hilton (convention hotel) is downtown so that is the area I explored. The town was, surprisingly, founded by George Washington himself in 1758. How many places can claim that? Market square is a standard destination easy walking distance from the hotel, but completely torn up due to construction. Yesterday I had the 'big fish' at Primanti Bros Bar and Grill. Fabulous, but not for the faint of heart. Cole slaw, french fries, and cheese ON the sandwich.

General impression of downtown is one of cool art deco buildings (or older) and, compared to Houston, not much activity. A workday in downtown Houston is like a beehive, here it is like a few beetles strolling around. Nice, but you get the feeling you came in late on a really good party.

First event at the conference was registration and happy hour. Funny how this small (~900) conference comes up with great finger food and free bar, when the SEG with 9000 has 1 drink ticket then a cash bar, and food is nothing but chaos. I visited every booth in an hour and had good conversations at each.

Met a guy I knew from email, Mark Wilkinson (Baker Hughes), and had a couple of drinks. Finally found out the cost of CO2 for oil enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects in the US onshore. I had kept hearing oil people simply say 'CO2 is expensive', but with no info to back it up. A prof from New Mexico Tech said it was a closely held number that depends on pipeline access, purpose of use, recovery after use, etc. But basically, it is $1/MCF (~$19/tonne). It turns out, contrary to my previous suspicions, that CO2 used in EOR is pretty accurately accounted for on return to the surface. Something like 50% of the CO2 is lost to the formation. At the end of an oil EOR project, it is common for the operator to 'blow down' the reservoir in order to recover what CO2 he can for reuse or resale. An interesting discussion ensued about the CO2 credit of $10/tone in the 2008 emergency stabilization bill. If this were upped to $20 (equal to the pure sequestration credit), and an end-of-project bonus added for CO2 left in the reservoir, then economics of oil and tax incentives would go a long way toward our CO2 sequestration goals.

At dinner there was great food, another open bar, and everyone in a big room. The keynote was by a BP bigwig, who had the double sad duty of talking about the Gulf oil spill and trying to get his talk out over 800 loud people eating dinner. One of the organizers mentioned that the Obama administration had a CCS working group, but had accepted the euro phrase of 'carbon capture and storage', so it sounds like the term 'sequestration' is on the way out.

I can see the advantages of a small conference. Interesting that people were complaining about the shuttle busses, I guess earlier conferences were even smaller and just done in the hotel.

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