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US senators propose bipartisan carbon capture bill for gas-fired power plants

Four U.S. senators are backing a bipartisan bill aimed at spurring advancements in carbon capture and sequestration technology for natural gas-fired power plants.

Senate Bill 1685 — titled the Launching Energy Advancement and Development through Innovations for Natural Gas, or LEADING, Act was introduced May 23 by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. It has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The legislation would task the U.S. Energy Department with creating a program to develop carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, technology for natural gas-fired generating facilities with the goal of accelerating its commercial application through private sector demonstration projects.

CCS technology can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the CO2 from being released into the atmosphere where it would contribute to climate change. The International Energy Agency has estimated that 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions reductions will need to come from CCS technology by 2040 to limit global warming to 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels.

Nearly 30% of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 were produced by natural gas, which ranked second that year behind petroleum and ahead of coal after accounting for industrial processes, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Natural gas now is the main source of electricity in the U.S., generating 35% of power in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"The LEADING Act is critical to near-term reductions of emissions from our electricity and industrial sectors, and will help power innovation and create jobs," Coons said in a statement.

The bill specifically would require the DOE to solicit applications for demonstration projects and submit a report to Congress detailing its applicant evaluation methods, expected goals for technology deployment, estimations of project costs, project timelines and further legislative recommendations, among other things.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department on May 2 issued a request for comments as it develops final guidance for the 45Q tax incentive for CCS technology deployment as modified by the U.S. Congress in 2018. That guidance is necessary to give project developers and investors certainty that their CCS projects can qualify for the new credit.