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A New Energy System for the Intermountain West – Built on Domestic Primary Resources and Negative Carbon Emissions

Dag Nummedal, Colorado Energy Research Institute, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401, phone: 303 384-2506, [email protected]

Global energy security, anthropogenic climate change, and high energy prices combine to harness market forces and ingenuity like never before to design a fundamentally different energy supply and distribution system in our nation. The Intermountain West and adjacent Great Plains could play a leadership role in this new system because of an abundance of coal and biomass for gasification, combined with a large number of oil and gas fields ready for enhanced recovery and storage of CO2.

Such a new system could be built around coal gasification combined cycle power plants (CGCC plants), combined with gasification of biomass such as the high-yield prairie switchgrass. This system would produce methane for conventional power generation, as in today's pulverized coal plants and at a lower cost than current use of natural gas, and allow co-generation of hydrogen, biofuels, dimethyl ethylene or any other ‘designer fuel' (polygeneration), plus CO2. Separation of the CO2 from other gases would occur at the pre-combustion stage, making the task more efficient and much cheaper than current attempts at post-combustion separation of CO2 from power plant flue gas.

The associated production of moderately priced CO2 would act as a stimulus for expansion of CO2 enhanced oil recovery (and gas recovery?); an industry that currently is supply-limited in the Rocky Mountains region. Also, widespread EOR would provide an enormous sink for anthropogenic CO2. Some of this gas was obtained through biomass, which extracted the gas from the atmosphere during its growth cycle, hence providing an overall negative CO2 budget for the integrated power and fuel generating system. Finally, all primary energy sources for such a system would be domestic, a blend of fossil and renewable, and in enormous supply throughout the region.