Near-term deployment of carbon capture and sequestration from biorefineries in the United States

Daniel L. Sanchez, Nils Johnson, Sean T. McCoy, Peter A. Turner, Katharine J. Mach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Capture and permanent geologic sequestration of biogenic CO2 emissions may provide critical flexibility in ambitious climate change mitigation. However, most bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) technologies are technically immature or commercially unavailable. Here, we evaluate low-cost, commercially ready CO2 capture opportunities for existing ethanol biorefineries in the United States. The analysis combines process engineering, spatial optimization, and lifecycle assessment to consider the technical, economic, and institutional feasibility of near-term carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Our modeling framework evaluates least cost source–sink relationships and aggregation opportunities for pipeline transport, which can cost-effectively transport small CO2 volumes to suitable sequestration sites; 216 existing US biorefineries emit 45 Mt CO2 annually from fermentation, of which 60% could be captured and compressed for pipeline transport for under $25/tCO2. A sequestration credit, analogous to existing CCS tax credits, of $60/tCO2 could incent 30 Mt of sequestration and 6,900 km of pipeline infrastructure across the United States. Similarly, a carbon abatement credit, analogous to existing tradeable CO2 credits, of $90/tCO2 can incent 38 Mt of abatement. Aggregation of CO2 sources enables cost-effective long-distance pipeline transport to distant sequestration sites. Financial incentives under the low-carbon fuel standard in California and recent revisions to existing federal tax credits suggest a substantial near-term opportunity to permanently sequester biogenic CO2. This financial opportunity could catalyze the growth of carbon capture, transport, and sequestration; improve the lifecycle impacts of conventional biofuels; support development of carbon-negative fuels; and help fulfill the mandates of low-carbon fuel policies across the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4875-4880
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 8 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioenergy
  • Carbon capture
  • Carbon dioxide removal
  • Climate policy
  • Energy systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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