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EPA CO₂ EOR and Storage - UIC Permitting Recent Developments

May 05, 2015

There have been recent developments in two areas of US EPA's program for regulating geologic sequestration under Class VI permits that may be of interest to stakeholders. The first relates to the issuance and review of permits for injection projects and the second relates to the potential transition from Class II wells to Class VI wells in oilfields.

To date, EPA has issued Class VI permits for six wells, operated by two different operators, for two projects in Illinois. These permits were the first of their kind and provide us with a number of insights about the permitting process. The permit applications were all reviewed by the regional EPA office for Illinois, EPA Region V, and the process is well documented on their website. The final permits for the Archer Daniels Midland project in Decatur were issued in the late fall and winter of 2014, following dismissal of appeal by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB).

The permits for the FutureGen 2.0 in Morgan County were issued in late fall 2014. The permitting process allows for stakeholders to appeal the final decision at the Environmental Appeals Board, or EAB. On April 28, 2015, the EAB issued a decision on the appeal of the FutureGen 2.0 permit applications. The process for review is documented on the EAB site and the FutureGen 2.0 docket contains the full set of original petition, supporting documents, and correspondence. It also contains the final decision on the appeal. After a comprehensive review process, the EAB found that EPA had correctly reviewed the permit applications and denied further review of the petition. The final decision reviews each point raised by the petitioners in the appeal and provides an explanation for the EAB finding.

The documents contained in the EPA Class VI dockets provide the public with a view of the level of detail contained in the applications, EPA's timing and process for review, and the potential options for stakeholders to provide input to the process.
At the end of April EPA also issued a letter outlining the Key Principles in EPA's UIC Program Class VI Rule Related to Transition of Class II EOR to Class VI Wells. Currently EPA implements the Class VI program for all states, and most states with active EOR programs have primacy to implement the Class II program. There has been some uncertainty in regulatory distinctions between the two well classes. The recent EPA letter clarifies several points, including that incidental storage with EOR projects is permitted under Class II wells and so is the use of anthropogenic CO₂; Class VI site closure requirements do not apply to EOR wells; and the decision to transition from a Class II to a Class VI well is made only if there is an increased risk to underground sources of drinking water and the risk cannot be managed under Class II program. EPA also puts forward their views on managing this transition and clearly delineates the role of the Class II programs. Ultimately, EPA encourages States to seek primacy to implement both programs. Overall this clarification has been welcomed by the industry stakeholders as it reduces regulatory uncertainty for commercial EOR operations.
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