Carbon Capture Technologies for Meeting Virginia Clean Economy Act Goals

Author: ORCID icon
Illgner, Tara, Environmental Sciences - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lawrence, Deborah, AS-Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Rising carbon emissions, in the form of CO2, are accelerating global warming, posing an existential threat to life on Earth. The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) calls for 100% carbon-emission-free electricity generation in the Commonwealth by 2045. The VCEA specifically calls for eliminating electricity emissions by replacing conventional power plants with renewable sources. However, Virginia’s electricity sector only accounts for 35% of the state’s carbon emissions. The IPCC recommended 1.5 degrees Celsius warming ceiling requires deployment of all available CO2-abatement methods. Therefore, this thesis presents carbon capture technologies as one of the potential approaches to reducing or eliminating (1) interim electricity sector emissions until power facilities are replaced by renewables, and (2) the remaining 65% of Virginia’s carbon emissions. This thesis reviews literature from scientific, economic, government, intergovernmental, and NGO sources. The review covers both established and emerging technologies that can harness Virginia’s geographic, geologic, economic, and policy settings for significant and rapid reductions in the state’s CO2 emissions.

Here I present findings of Virginia’s opportune suitability for implementing carbon capture through the following six approaches: Post-combustion carbon capture can be applied to Virginia’s 98 existing power facilities. Pre-combustion carbon capture and the Allam Fetvedt are applicable for reducing or eliminating carbon emissions from new electricity-generating facilities. Enhanced oil recovery is already widely in use throughout the United States and can be expanded into Virginia for carbon sequestration at existing oil and gas wells, particularly in the western part of the state. Virginia’s participation in the emerging carbon utilization market may accelerate carbon capture in Virginia while also supporting the overall market’s growth. Finally, forming cooperative carbon sequestration hubs with regional carbon emitters can expand opportunities for reduced-cost sequestration in Virginia using shared pipeline infrastructure.

In summary, this thesis contributes to synthesizing the current state of development and deployment of carbon capture technology at the global, national, and Virginia state level. Additionally, I highlight potential paths to carbon neutrality in Virginia through layered applications of carbon capture
technologies and regulatory financial incentives. Lastly, I posit how layering carbon capture technology networks may further fuel a circular carbon economy toward energy independence.

MA (Master of Arts)
carbon capture, carbon reduction, circular carbon economy, Virginia, Virginia Clean Economy Act, CCUS, CCS
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