Company looks to gain support for CO2 sequestration project

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Howard Greninger, The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.
·3 min read
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Apr. 1—Officials with Wabash Valley Resources on Wednesday hosted U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, to gain support for a carbon dioxide sequestration project that is also now slated to produce hydrogen.

"It will be the largest carbon capture project," said Nalin Gupta, a partner for Wabash Valley Resources. "We want to go to net carbon zero."

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the most commonly produced greenhouse gas, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Connecticut-based Phibro LLC and a group of investors in 2016 acquired the former SG Solutions plant, a coal gasification plant located about seven miles north of Terre Haute, from Wabash Valley Power Association. At that time, the project was estimated at $450 million. Now the investment will be $600 million, Gupta told Braun, creating up to 200 jobs after four years.

The project is slated to begin operations in 2023, Grupta said.

Gupta asked Braun to support the project, by "leveling the playing field," removing governmental environmental tax credits for solar and wind, adding those are no longer an incubator technology or industry.

"That would be tough," Braun said, "as both are big industries currently ... very seldom are those [subsidies] weaned away. I am one who believes they should be. For basic research and getting ideas going, I think government has got a place there, but when it comes to picking winners and losers in how you take basic research and apply it, that gets into these complications," Braun said.

"Then change the philosophy," Gupta said. "If you are zero carbon on a lifecycle basis, you can get $25 per megawatt [tax credit]. That allows us to compete ... that would be leveling the playing field."

The company originally was to produce ammonia, but has switched to hydrogen. "We wanted to make ammonia because the hydrogen economy was not in existence five years ago and now the hydrogen economy is ramping up," Gupta said, adding hydrogen can be used to power factories and transportation.

Braun said he would like Wabash Valley Resources to meet with other senators about the project.

Gupta said the plant will be the first to take technology from other areas to combine into one facility.

"If we are able to prove this, we truly believe this will be replicated throughout the country because of its merits," Gupta said.

In a related issue, a Indiana Senate committee Tuesday approved an amendment to Senate Bill 373 for carbon credit programs. The amendment favors Wabash Valley Resources if the company obtains a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"It basically says that permit is an affirmative defense against any claims of property damage and any [lowering] of property value is not their fault. That is astonishing," said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, which opposed the amendment.

"We have no idea yet about the implications of the long-term storage of CO2 [carbon dioxide] underground," Olson said. "We are talking about super critical highly pressurized carbon dioxide that is injected into rock formations where there is brine and gases and other materials. This is something we just don't know enough about," he said.

Gupta said the EPA "makes us go through one of the most stringent permitting processes. It is a $20 million investment that we have to do to get the permit. After we get the permit, we have to put roughly $50 million into a trust fund," he said. "The permit rules are based on Congress's mandate of the safe drinking water act."

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.