The proposed Montezuma NorCal Carbon Sequestration Hub is so terrible that it should be named after Cortés instead.
This is just one of the two dozen carbon capture and sequestration projects currently proposed for California, and it’s all ours—endangering communities and ecosystems from the Chevron Richmond refinery to Antioch at the entrance to the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta; then northward to the Valero Refinery in Benicia, and eastward again to the Montezuma Wetlands in Solano County, southeast of Suisun City. Emeryville-based Montezuma Wetlands LLC proposes to collect CO2 from four Bay Area refineries (Chevron, Valero, PBF and Marathon), two hydrogen plants, and four fossil gas-fueled power plants, and run the compressed carbon dioxide (CO2) via barges and pipeline under Suisun Bay to the injection site under the 3,200 acre Montezuma wetlands.
Add your voice to speak up against this dangerous project:
* Health professionals—volunteer with SF Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility calling for a ban on CO2 pipelines in wetlands.
* Petition from Center for Biological Diversity calling on the US Environmental Projection Agency Region 9 to reject permits for all pending carbon capture projects in California. The Center has also developed a toolkit that groups can use to replicate this petition.
The problem is that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is an unproven technology with a history of repeated failures. It’s also extremely costly and highly dangerous. For two cautionary tales, here are accounts of the CO2 release in Satartia, MS and another in Lake Nyos, Cameroon. And for a reminder about the multiple reasons why CCS is both a false solution to the climate crisis and a serious threat to environmental justice communities, please take a look at this report by Food & Water Watch, and this indictment by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. And this sobering report by the Pipeline Safety Trust on Carbon Dioxide Pipelines: Dangerous and Under-Regulated. The European Environment Agency has also just published a report showing that the increased burning of fuel to power CCS equipment increases the release of several health-harming co-pollutants—with inevitable negative consequences for our frontline communities.
In spite of all these red flags, desperate state and federal policymakers and regulators are quadrupling down on carbon capture and sequestration as a means of rapidly reducing out-of-control carbon pollution. And closer to home than Washington and Sacramento, key collaborators on this project include the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who have been studying the sequestration potential of the Montezuma Hills area since 2010. They are leading the design of the pipeline and injection site monitoring programs, which according to the optimistic project description will provide “comprehensive data to document the integrity of pipeline operations,” as well as “a unique, multiple media approach to document the long-term containment of the CO2 plume.” Long-term containment! Let’s hope so, as twenty areas around the injection site contain residences and/or commercial buildings, not to mention the teeming tidal life.
Here are the objectives of the proposed Montezuma CCS project, as laid out in the permit application to EPA Region 9 (which will take a year for review):
- Collection and sequestration of a million tons per year of CO2 from multiple power plants and industrial sources estimated to emit over 17 million tons of CO2 per year that are located within 45 miles of the site,
- Transportation of that CO2 by barge and/or mainly underwater pipeline to Montezuma’s existing offloading dock on the Sacramento River and then by on-site pipeline to the proposed injection location approximately 1 mile north of the dock,
- Pressurizing the CO2 at a compressor station in the injection area and injecting supercritical CO2 (with properties of both a liquid and a gas) via three or more separate injection wells into distinct saline aquifers 8,000 to 14,000 feet below ground surface (bgs).
- Sequestration of 50 to 200 million tons of CO2 at the site in deep saline aquifers: the Domengine, Anderson, Hamilton and Martinez. Use of three or more injection wells and multiple injection zones to allow for operational flexibility.
- Sequestration of the CO2 in the subsurface reservoir storage complex operated under a United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class VI permit and California Air Resources Board (CARB) Permanence Certification programs,
- Implementation of advanced state-of-the-art monitoring programs for all aspects of the project so the regulatory agencies and public have confidence in the integrity and success of the transportation and sequestration activities, and
- Injection of the CO2 into the storage complex for 40 years and potentially longer, followed by post-injection site care (PISC) and site closure of the storage complex per US EPA and CARB regulations.
The project objectives for the Montezuma Hub facility as related to this initial Class VI permit application for this facility include:
- Capture and collection of approximately 1 million tons per year of CO2 or more from the PG&E Gateway Station near Antioch, California, with potential additional contributions from Calpine’s Delta Energy and Los Medanos power plant facilities in the same vicinity,
- Compression and transportation of the captured CO2 to the Montezuma Carbon Storage Hub complex via the Stage 1 CO2 pipeline,
- Injection and sequestration of the CO2 within the Anderson sandstone under a Class VI UIC permit for a period of 40 years, followed by post-injection site care (PISC) and site closure of the storage complex per US EPA regulations and permit requirements.
Can we prevent a major Bay Area wetlands from becoming a carbon waste dump? Although the prospect is daunting, we’ve been successful many times before at stopping terrible projects. Let’s keep that in mind as we roll up our sleeves and get to work. We’ll continue to report on this situation and the actions we can take.