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Utah may become home to clean carbon energy

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Brian McPherson discusses clean energy Tuesday while Danesh Patel, left, Jack Brittain and Kirk Benson look on.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

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Utah is poised to become home to clean carbon energy as a new joint venture aims to put carbon dioxide emissions away for good.

Headwaters Inc., a Utah-based natural resources company, on Tuesday announced a collaboration with the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative, a taxpayer-funded program, to offer carbon services to the various carbon-dioxide-emitting companies, from carbon storage engineering to risk and liability management.

"We're committed to using the very best technology to safely store CO2 where it will never again see the light of day," said Kirk Benson, Headwaters' chairman and chief executive officer.

Benson said capturing carbon dioxide as it is emitted is the only way to reduce its presence in the atmosphere — a presence that contributes to global warming, as well as ocean acidification. The geology, people and resources, as well as the intellectual capability found in University of Utah civil and environmental engineering professor and USTAR-recruit Brian McPherson, makes Utah a natural choice for the use of the groundbreaking carbon capture and sequestration technology, Benson said.

McPherson said use of natural resources, such as coal, oil and natural gas, when combusted, emit harmful carbon dioxide, up to 1 million tons a year from just one plant.

"There's more than one reason to take carbon dioxide, keep it from going into the atmosphere and put it back into the ground," he said.

McPherson's research teams have been testing ground sites throughout several neighboring states and plan to continue testing, until a commercial storage site can be established near Wellington.

"The ground has a natural capability to hold the carbon dioxide, to take it back," he said. About 2 billion tons of underground storage space has been identified within the state, which could store 50 years' worth of current Utah-generated emissions.

Benson said McPherson's research, along with Headwaters, which has strong relationships with coal-fired power plants in the U.S., will help Utah become a front-runner in the "solution to a long-term problem."

Carbon-sequestration technologies were developed under the U.'s fossil-energy research team, led by McPherson. Graduate students at the U.'s Lassonde New Venture Development Center helped perform market research and developed initial business models for the new technology.

The carbon dioxide storage tanks, although still in the planning stage, will serve several power plants in central Utah and make way for better carbon management in the state.

While global concerns about the effects of carbon dioxide emissions are reaching a tipping point, many experts believe carbon dioxide storage is one of the best ways to significantly decrease carbon dioxide emissions without adversely impacting the current standard of living.

As its first commission, the new venture company known as Headwaters Clean Carbon Services, will develop and operate a regional carbon dioxide storage site that will serve several power plants in central Utah. The company's engineers estimate that site could permanently store as much as one billion tons of carbon dioxide.

"HCCS is exactly what the business community envisioned for USTAR," said Jack Brittain, U. vice president for technology venture development. "Utah ideas are being turned into Utah jobs."

Because of the location of the site, the state's School and Institutional Trust Land Administration also should be able to collect lease fees for the storage, which will help fund Utah schools.

E-MAIL: wleonard@desnews.com

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