As Alaska looks to break into the carbon dioxide management industry, state officials have their eyes on the Cook Inlet basin as a potential storage facility for carbon.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner-designee John Boyle walked attendees at Friday’s Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon through the impetus for and logistics of the state entering that market.
Carbon management starts with CO2 emissions, which come from activities like power generation, manufacturing or oil and gas emissions. Those projects are typically referred to as carbon capture, utilization and storage, or CCUS, initiatives and answer the question of what can be done with byproducts from those activities.
Per the U.S. Department of Energy, carbon capture, utilization and storage refers to the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions and either reusing or storing it so it does not enter the atmosphere. Storage of carbon dioxide in geologic formations include oil and gas reservoirs, such as those that exist in the Cook Inlet basin.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced in January the introduction of what he called a Carbon Management and Monetization Bill Package. That package included two pieces of legislation, each introduced in both the Alaska House and Senate.
One, introduced as S.B. 49 and H.B. 50, would establish a carbon capture, utilization and storage program for the state and create a framework for state agencies to permit and regulate carbon storage facilities. The other, introduced as S.B. 48 and H.B. 49, would establish a statewide carbon offset program and authorize the Department of Natural Resources to lease land for carbon management.
The actual capture, utilization and storage of carbon would be undertaken by individual private project developers, while the State of Alaska would act as a landlord. Any upfront investments by the state into these initiatives, Boyle said, would come in the form of hiring new employees to assist with permitting.
“The state would be the landlord charging a rental rate for utilizing our state land and then also charging fees for storing the CO2, you know, under the ground in what is also our mineral estate,” Boyle said.
In entering the carbon management market, Boyle said Alaska would target a voluntary, rather than compliance, structure. Under a voluntary carbon market structure, reductions to CO2 emissions are driven by companies or individuals. That’s as compared to compliance structures, where a government establishes those limits and other parameters.
“These are folks that, for one reason or another, feel that they want to reduce carbon emissions from their operation,” Boyle said of the carbon market’s voluntary structure.
He pointed to companies who have set carbon emissions or renewables goals for themselves, such as Disney and Amazon, but also companies that already operate in Alaska, such as ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. Alaska’s biggest carbon emitters, Boyle said, are processing facilities on the North Slope and coal-fired power plants in the Interior.
“If they’re voluntarily moving in that direction anyways and they’re looking for opportunities to offset their emissions, this is the area where we feel that the state can be involved to monetize the resources that we have to take advantage of this,” Boyle said.
Alaska further has a competitive advantage, he said, because it has multiple geologic basins conducive to oil and gas production where carbon can be stored, including in Cook Inlet, the Interior and on the North Slope, where those resources are already being developed.
It is estimated that Cook Inlet alone, he said, can store at least 50 gigatons of carbon, which is more carbon than Japan will emit over a 50-year period of time. Japan made headlines last year for reducing its 2020 CO2 emissions to 1.15 billion tons, or about one gigaton. For comparison, the U.S. emitted about 6.34 billion tons of CO2 equivalents in 2021, or about 5.59 million tons after sequestration, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is just an incredible amount of carbon dioxide that can be captured (and) stored under the Cook Inlet and kept there for a long period of time,” Boyle said Friday.
He said the state’s current focus on carbon storage is based on their belief and hope that “significant progress” will be made on the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas project in the coming months. Exports from that project, which would move gas from the North Slope through an 800-mile pipeline to a liquefaction plant in Nikiski for shipment overseas, got a stamp of approval from the U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday.
The Alaska LNG Project, years in the making, received renewed focus last year following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Alaska’s Congressional delegation and municipalities on the central Kenai Peninsula throwing their support behind the project. Additional disruption of other global energy markets, Boyle said Friday, has also sent countries searching for new energy sources.
Prudhoe Bay natural gas, which would be traveling through the Alaska LNG pipeline, is high in CO2, which can be corrosive in addition to being bad for the environment. It is therefore already the plan of that project to strip the CO2 from gas produced on the North Slope before sending it to Nikiski, where the state hopes to also produce hydrogen and ammonia for export, Boyle said.
“You could create this incredible value chain based on shipping products like hydrogen and ammonia to Asia and (liquefied natural gas) and then Alaska could market itself, for instance, as selling net-zero LNG to Asian countries,” he said. “Again, just based on where the world is kind of heading, we think that that will give us an incredible competitive advantage over so many other areas.”
At least 13 other states have comprehensive carbon capture, utilization and storage legislation. Among those are North Dakota, which Boyle said has turned carbon capture into a multibillion dollar industry. North Dakota is one of two states that has secured primacy from the EPA, meaning it can regulate wells that inject carbon dioxide into the ground.
Boyle estimates it would take the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission between 1.5 and two years to obtain primary enforcement authority from the EPA.
“We’re very eager to capitalize on the same types of successes that some of these other states have seen,” Boyle said.
When it comes to what carbon capture in Cook Inlet could mean for municipalities on the Kenai Peninsula, Boyle said local communities may have the opportunity to partner with the state on certain projects and there will be demand for workers in new career fields.
If, for example, there are municipal lands adjacent to state land that could be conducive to carbon offset projects. Municipalities may also have the opportunity to co-develop projects or benefit from property tax benefits related to infrastructure needed for such carbon projects.
“The real benefit to the region is that, by embracing these new types of revenue generating mechanisms for the state, it’ll create myriad opportunities for new businesses (and) new demand for certain types of professionals,” Boyle said. “Whether they’re in the forestry industry or folks that want to really specialize around carbon (and) the new jobs associated with that, there will be myriad opportunities, I think, that will manifest themselves as we work to develop these new types of carbon projects.”
More information about Dunleavy’s carbon initiatives can be found on the bill pages at akleg.gov.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.