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News of the Day:       

A Zero-Emission Power Plant That Runs On Fossil Fuels (Yes, You Read That Right)
Michael Elizabeth Sakas, CPR News, April 19, 2021

Outside of Houston is a zero-emissions power plant that runs on fossil fuels invented to keep burning natural gas without contributing to climate change. 

Since 2018, the company NET Power has used the site to test a technology that keeps the plant’s carbon dioxide byproduct out of the atmosphere. The semi-closed loop system reuses some of the CO2 to help power the plant. The rest of the greenhouse gas is captured to be stored underground so it can’t enter the atmosphere or sold to industries that use CO2 — like soda companies carbonating drinks. 

The technology, developed by 8 Rivers Capital, made it on MIT’s 2018 list of 10 technological breakthroughs. The company says the pilot was successful and it’s now moving to construct four commercial plants. One of them is planned for the Southern Ute Reservation in southwest Colorado. 

“Although the Tribe has a rich and successful history as an energy producer in Indian Country, we have always prioritized the protection of our natural resources. This project further exemplifies our environmental stewardship,” wrote Southern Ute Vice Chairman Bruce Valdez in a statement.

A final decision on whether the plant will be built will be made in 2022, and production on the Coyote Clean Power Project could begin by 2025. The plant would operate without needing additional water and the company claims it eliminates all emissions, including air pollution. 

“Development of one of the world’s first zero-emission and water neutral power plants will lead to economic development and job growth while accelerating our transition to 100 percent clean electricity,” wrote Gov. Jared Polis in a statement. “We are thrilled about this partnership between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and 8 Rivers Capital, as our region continues to lead in the clean energy transition, and my Administration stands ready to support next steps in the Coyote Clean Power Project.”

While some view the technology as a game-changer, there’s still the problem of what to do with the plant’s captured carbon. It would need to be stored so it can’t enter the atmosphere, which the company claims can be done “cheaply.”

In an email, 8 Rivers representative Adam Goff wrote that the operators are evaluating different options for its CO2, which could be injected deep underground for permanent storage. Goff wrote that the plan for the Colorado facility is to store all of the CO2 produced, but they’re not ruling out other uses for the gas like selling it for carbonating soda. 

As reported by Bloomberg, environmentalists are concerned about the continued use of natural gas. And while the plant might not release any emissions, the production and transportation of fossil fuels needed to power the plant would. 

Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director with the environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians, wrote in an email that he’s “incredibly skeptical” that the project will ever be built due to costs and “the commercially unproven nature of carbon capture and sequestration.” 

“I say more power to the Southern Ute Tribe. It’s certainly not our place to second guess what they view to be a good investment,” Nichols wrote. “If the Southern Ute Tribe wants to stay locked into dependence on oil and gas, that’s their right.  Even if it costs them opportunities to develop more viable and affordable means of energy production, that’s their prerogative.”


State of Alaska Intervenes in Willow Project Lawsuit
The Frontiersman, April 18, 2021

The State of Alaska asked the U.S. District Court in Anchorage for permission to participate in a lawsuit to defend the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) approval of the Willow Project. The Willow Project would be located in the northeastern portion of the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, an area expressly set aside by the federal government for oil and gas development. The initial discovery of oil in the Willow area was made by ConocoPhillips Alaska in 2017, and the company has since undertaken the process to have a full development plan approved by the State and federal governments.

“Oil and gas development is critical to North Slope communities, and Alaska has long anticipated bringing the Willow Project online. With the potential to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day, it is imperative that Alaska is given the opportunity to responsibly develop our resources,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Without ongoing developments like Willow, North Slope communities’ would struggle to fund basic governmental services. These developments not only contribute directly to jobs for the region, but they also provide revenues to local communities through impact mitigation grants.”

The Impact Mitigation grant program provides a portion of the revenue from federal oil and gas leases directly to the local communities in which the developments are located to help fund basic local government operations, community programs, and infrastructure improvements for the benefit of Alaskans within the NPR-A.

“The State is prepared to defend the responsible development of Alaska’s resources for the benefit of all Alaskans,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor. “Here, the BLM and the State found that ConocoPhillips’ development plan checked all of the appropriate boxes, and we see no lawful reason to withhold State support of the project.”

The Greater Willow Area is estimated to hold between 400 and 750 million barrels of oil equivalent and could produce in excess of 100,000 barrels of oil per day. Half of all royalties from the Willow Project are shared with the State of Alaska, and the estimated economic impact to the State from the Willow Project is estimated between $4.8 and $12.9 billion over the life of the project.


NextDecade enters responsibly sourced gas effort in pilot tied to US LNG facility
S & P Global Platts, April 19, 2021

NextDecade will have the greenhouse gas intensity of the LNG to be produced at its proposed liquefaction terminal in Texas assessed, partnering with a Colorado company that is already working with several US gas producers to certify their supplies as responsibly sourced.

NextDecade’s pilot program with Project Canary, announced in a statement April 19, comes as the developer is pursuing an aggressive carbon capture and storage project tied to its yet-to-be sanctioned Rio Grande LNG terminal in Brownsville.

With strict carbon emissions goals, European utilities are being pressured to shy away from signing new deals for importing US shale gas. Amid that undercurrent, several North American terminal developers have been advancing initiatives designed to show that shale gas can bridge the energy transition to greater use of cleaner-burning fuels and aid rather than impede buyers’ climate goals.

“This is a 100-foot tsunami that is only 5 feet out of the water,” Project Canary CEO Chris Romer said in a telephone interview.

Project Canary has arrangements with over 20 upstream and midstream companies related to its emissions monitoring and certification technology, while at least another 20-30 are in the process of entering similar contracts, Romer said. Project Canary is in conversations with six LNG suppliers, mostly in Europe and Asia, though some also in the US, he said, without identifying the companies.

EQT and Chesapeake Energy are among the US gas producers that have already announced arrangements with Romer’s group.

The pilot project with NextDecade will involve monitoring, reporting, and independent third-party measurement and certification of the GHG intensity of LNG to be sold from Rio Grande LNG. The goal includes enabling the development of responsibly sourced natural gas from producers in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford shale that will be fed to the export terminal.

NextDecade is targeting a final investment decision on the terminal later this year, though Romer said Project Canary’s work with NextDecade will start right away. It will deploy its TrustWell certification process to confirm that each element of the natural gas value chain – from the wellhead to the ship at Rio Grande LNG – has achieved low emissions targets and utilized the highest standards of environmental performance and social responsibility.

The idea of responsibly sourced gas has quickly become an attractive message for US producers and infrastructure project developers that want to show they are taking their duty to protect the environment seriously. In EQT ‘s case, it hopes it can generate a premium for its Appalachian Basin gas if it can validate that its supplies are more environmentally friendly than supplies from other US basins.

Buyers speak.

Commercial considerations also could be at play.

France’s Engie said in November 2020 that it had halted talks with NextDecade about a supply deal tied to Rio Grande LNG.

In NextDecade’s statement, CEO Matt Schatzman said the pilot with Project Canary “will provide transparency and give confidence to our customers” about Rio Grande LNG’s environmental stewardship.

NextDecade’s aggressive GHG reduction and certification efforts could bring buyers back to the table.

“The very first thing the LNG purchasers have said to us is it’s not just carbon/methane intensity,” Romer said. “It’s that they don’t want to buy net zero gas from a pad in the Marcellus or Permian where the fracked fluids and produced water are polluting the river, or the ozone in that air basin is hurting children at the local school.”


Ambler Road takes a step toward reality
Shane Lasley, North of 60 Mining News, April 19, 2021

With a $13 million budget for predevelopment activities during 2021, a proposed road to the enormously metal-rich Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska takes another step closer to reality.

This summer’s work to prepare the proposed 211-mile industrial access road for a development decision will be funded equally by Ambler Metals LLC, which is working to develop the rich mineral potential at the road’s terminus, and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which would fund the building and maintenance of the road, and collect tolls to recoup its costs.

In February, Ambler Metals and AIDEA entered into a development agreement that outlines how the companies will fund and manage the Ambler Access Project’s feasibility and permitting activities until a definitive construction decision has been reached for the road, which is expected before the end of 2024.

Under this agreement, the mining company and development authority will each contribute up to $35 million for Ambler Road pre-development costs until that decision is made.

In the meantime, Ambler Metals, a 50-50 joint venture partnership between Trilogy Metals Inc. and South32 Ltd., is investing another $27 million this year on exploration, as well as the engineering studies and other work needed to initiate the permitting process for a mine at the world-class Arctic deposit.

According to a 2020 feasibility study, a mine at the Arctic deposit would produce 1.9 billion pounds of copper, 2.3 billion lb of zinc, 388 million lb of lead, 386,000 ounces of gold, and 40.6 million oz of silver over an initial 12-year mine life.

Arctic is one of numerous deposits and occurrences that have been identified across the Upper Kobuk Minerals Projects, a partnership that brings together Arctic and a series of volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits and occurrences along a 70-mile (100 kilometers) belt that runs across the Ambler District with copper-rich lands owned by NANA Corp., the Alaska Native regional corporation for Northwest Alaska.

The NANA contribution to UKMP hosts Bornite, a world-class copper-cobalt deposit about 16 miles southwest of the proposed Arctic Mine. It is expected that Bornite would be the second mine to be developed in the Ambler District.

Mines at Arctic, Bornite and other deposits developed in the district would produce concentrates that need to be shipped to refineries. The ability to truck these concentrates to the Alaska railhead at Fairbanks is the primary reason the Ambler Road is needed.

The route of the Ambler Access Project approved by federal agencies runs nearly due west from the Dalton Highway along the south side of the Brooks Range. While this corridor would primarily cross state lands, the first roughly 20 miles would be built on Bureau of Land Management federal lands before crossing through a couple of property blocks owned by Doyon, the Alaska Native regional corporation for Interior Alaska.

Toward the western end, the Amber Road would also pass through a 26-mile stretch of the Gates of the Arctic National Park.

In January, BLM, the National Park Service and AIDEA signed documents that provide a 50-year right-of-way across the federal lands that would be crossed by the Ambler Access Project.

AIDEA has also confirmed that it has entered into a land access agreement with Doyon to conduct final feasibility and permitting activities for the proposed road.

This agreement provides AIDEA, and its contractors, controlled access to Doyon lands along the proposed road route.

“I would like to applaud the hard work being carried out by AIDEA which, in a span of a few months, has made a number of significant accomplishments in the advancement of the AAP (Ambler Access Project),” said Trilogy Metals President and CEO Tony Giardini. “I am also very encouraged with the work AIDEA has invested in with respect to its engagement with Doyon Ltd. The development of relationships with all stakeholders is the key to creating opportunities for Alaskans and other stakeholders.”


From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

BIPARTISAN PUSH TO BREAK US RELIANCE ON CHINA FOR CRITICAL MINERALS: Texas Reps. Lance Gooden, a Republican, and Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat, unveiled legislation this morning to create permanent tax incentives for the mining and recycling of critical minerals in the U.S.

Those minerals, which include lithium, graphite, and cobalt, are used in everything from military equipment to renewable energy and batteries. The legislation, shared first with Abby, is meant to address growing concerns, especially from Republicans, that the U.S. is reliant upon China and other adversaries for critical materials.

The legislation comes on the heels of House Natural Resources Committee Republicans reintroducing last week legislation that would speed up the permitting process for critical minerals mines.


ExxonMobil Pitches $100B Gulf Coast CCS Hub
Kevin Crowley, Bloomberg, April 20, 2021

Exxon Mobil Corp. proposed a giant, $100 billion hub to capture carbon dioxide emissions along the U.S. Gulf Coast in Texas but warned that government funding would be required to pay for and develop it.

In what would be the world’s biggest carbon and sequestration project, Exxon along with a multitude of private and public partners would build a facility to collect emissions from refineries, petrochemical plants and other industrial facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, Joe Blommaert, president of Exxon’s new low-carbon business said in a blog post.

Early projections show such a facility could bury 50 million tons a year beneath the Gulf of Mexico by 2030, more than all CCS projects currently operating globally. Exxon said that figure could double by 2040.

Old oil and gas formations in the Gulf of Mexico have long been seen as having the potential to store large quantities of carbon dioxide but the challenge has been paying for it. Under the current regulatory environment it’s cheaper to simply let the pollutants float away into the atmosphere. Exxon says the project could reduce the country’s carbon footprint significantly so long as government provides companies with the right financial incentives.

“It will need government and private-sector funding, as well as enhanced regulatory and legal frameworks that enable investment and innovation,” Exxon said.

The oil major, under pressure from investors over its environmental record and recent financial returns, didn’t say how much money it would provide to the project and recently cut its capital budget to the lowest in two decades to protect its $15 billion-a-year dividend.

Last year, the company put a smaller but easier to implement carbon project in Wyoming on hold due to the economic fallout from Covid-19. It would have cost about $260 million, or less the 1% of what Exxon is proposing for the Gulf Coast.