CCS in the United States

CCS in the United States


The United States of America (US) has the world’s third largest population (313 million), and the largest economy with a GDP of approximately US$14 trillion. In 2009, it was the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) at 6,575 Mt, of which 5,500 MtCO2e were energy related, accounting for roughly 18 per cent of the world’s total emissions.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the US reduced its emissions by about 7.5 per cent between 2006 and 2011, which was more than any other country Under the Copenhagen Accord, the US set an emissions reduction target for 2020 in the range of 17 per cent against a 2005 baseline (conditioned on anticipated energy and climate legislation). However, the US has not yet enacted such legislation.

Figure 1: US primary energy consumption. 

 Source: The International Energy Agency

Figure 2: US emissions by sector.

Source: The International Energy Agency

Policy environment

Attempts to pass a climate bill were unsuccessful in 2009 and 2010. In the absence of dedicated federal climate legislation, US GHG reductions are being driven by federal regulatory initiatives to limit GHG emissions under:

  • the existing Clean Air Act;
  • state GHG initiatives;
  • federal and state programs designed to encourage energy efficiency and conservation and promote clean energy sources;
  • coal plant retirements due in large part to new environmental regulations; and
  • gains in natural gas-based power due to low gas prices.

At the federal level, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation issued regulations establishing GHG emission standards and corporate average fuel economy standards for light duty vehicles, and GHG emissions standards and fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty engines and vehicles.

The EPA also issued regulations establishing permitting requirements for major stationary sources of GHGs under the New Source Review Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs. PSD (pre-construction) permitting involves a 5-step, top-down analysis for the Best Available Control Technology (BACT). The permitting guidance identifies CCS as an add-on pollution control technology that is ’available‘ for facilities emitting CO2 in large amounts and which should be listed as an option at Step 1 of the BACT process for such facilities. Listing at Step 1 does not mean CCS must be selected as BACT. Case-specific factors may warrant elimination of CCS as an option at later steps.

On 27 March  2012, EPA issued for comment a Rule proposing that new fossil fuel-fired power plants meet an output-based performance standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New power plants that use CCS would have the option to use a 30 year average of CO2 emissions to meet the proposed standard, rather than meeting the annual standard each year. The proposal does not apply to existing units and transitional sources that have PSD permits by the date of the proposal and commence construction within 12 month of the proposal.

Multiple states have established GHG emission targets. California, one of the world’s largest economies, enacted the comprehensive Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 to reduce GHG emissions through a combination of regulatory and market mechanisms. Under the Act, California established a cap and trade program for major sources with enforceable compliance obligations beginning with 2013 emissions. California is also partnering with British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a cap and trade program that transcends national boundaries. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a cooperative effort among nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce GHGs through a market-based cap and trade program – completed its first three year control period in 2011. In addition to GHG specific laws and policies, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that 30 states and the District of Columbia have enforceable renewable portfolio standards or similar laws.

In EIA’s 2012 Annual Energy Outlook, the Reference case projects that total energy-related emissions of CO2in the US will be more than 9 per cent below 2005 levels in 2020, and remain below 2005 levels through 2035.

Status of CCS

The United States has 19 large-scale CCS projects in operation or in various stages of development – the greatest amount for any country or region. It has also been a leader in CCS related research, development and demonstration (RD&D). Major RD&D activities include the creation and maintenance of seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships that have proven to be an indispensable source of CCS knowledge for North America and the world, and ongoing financial support for eight demonstration projects under the Department of Energy Programs. Nevertheless, the legal and regulatory landscape for CCS in the US remains unsettled. A federal regulatory scheme for permitting underground storage facilities is in place, but gaps remain in areas such as pore space ownership, long-term liability and long-term stewardship – some of which have been addressed by individual states. In the absence of a national program establishing a carbon price or other incentives to encourage CCS investment, the prospects for additional large-scale projects in the power and industrial sectors are uncertain. Potential revenue derived from CCUS, and in particular CO2 enhanced oil recovery, is being viewed as a possible pathway to build a business case for CCS and maintain US progress.

Members of the Institute

Government, non-profits and researchers

Industy and business

  • Nearly 60 US private companies are Institute Members spanning the power, industrial, legal and financial sectors.

Global CCS Institute activities in the United States

To demonstrate the Institute’s support of CCS in the US, the Institute is engaged in the:

  • establishment of a North American Regional Knowledge Sharing Network for the US and Canada;
  • organisation and implementation of Institute-led CCS workshops and knowledge sharing meetings; and
  • collaboration and participation in CCS stakeholder conferences.