Hillsborough city commissioners schedule vote on carbon capture project

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Hillsborough city commissioners took a step Wednesday toward giving the green light to a carbon capture pilot program that has faced pushback from local environmental groups since it was proposed in January.

County public works officials have been negotiating the details of a draft agreement for months with RoCarbon, the Korean company that proposed the project.

County staff briefed commissioners on the findings at Wednesday’s board meeting. They recommended that commissioners approve a pilot that would be conducted at no cost to the county.

The board accepted the report and moved by a 6-1 vote to schedule a future vote on the pilot.

County Public Works Administrator George Cassady previously told the Tampa Bay Times that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the success of the pilot, which could answer deep questions about the benefits of a permanent facility. Ta.

Carbon capture is an emerging technology aimed at removing carbon dioxide, a common greenhouse gas that causes global warming, from the atmosphere. Carbon capture, recently popularized as a solution to climate change, has attracted a flurry of government incentives and lobbying efforts from fossil fuel companies.

LowCarbon has received support from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who helped bring a hydrogen production plant operated by the company to Polk County last year.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan attends the County Commission meeting Wednesday at the Hillsborough County Center. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

In Hillsboro, RoCarbon is proposing to capture carbon dioxide produced by the county’s waste-to-energy plant in Brandon and convert it into calcium carbonate. The company claims that calcium carbonate is a profitable by-product.

Kim Byer, assistant county public works administrator, said there are no known risks associated with carbon capture or the byproducts sold by RoCarbon. He told board members Wednesday that calcium carbonate is used in concrete production and other construction industries.

In the pilot phase, LowCarbon will sell calcium carbonate and provide the receipts to the county so they can evaluate the product’s profitability.

The county will not receive any revenue from these sales, but the agreement states the county is entitled to carbon credits earned during the pilot.

Carbon credits are earned by removing or offsetting carbon dioxide from the environment. It can be bought and sold between businesses, industries, and governments to comply with emissions standards.

In LowCarbon’s initial proposal for a permanent facility, the company proposed splitting profits from calcium carbonate sales 50-50 with the county. There are no plans for anything other than a pilot program, so it’s unclear how revenue sharing will work if the county decides to build a permanent facility.

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The pilot program will work with the Hillsborough County Resource Recovery Facility, a waste-to-energy plant that burns trash to produce steam that drives turbines and generates electricity.

Although the process reduces emissions by diverting waste from landfills, the plant still emits about 600 tons of carbon dioxide each day.

LowCarbon’s pilot facility will capture one tonne of carbon dioxide each day. Records show the company’s proposed permanent facility, which was initially rejected by county officials, would cost nearly $25 million and capture 40 tons of carbon dioxide.

The county will seek grant funding to cover most of the cost of the permanent facility, but at least some of that money may have to be taken out of county coffers, officials said Wednesday.

Brooke Ward addresses the board in the public comment section during Wednesday’s County Commission meeting. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Brooke Ward of Florida organizer Food & Water Watch estimated that if Florida was responsible for just 1% of the $25 million project, it would cost taxpayers $200,000.

“The funds proposed for this project could be used for many other things,” she said. “You can do a lot with $200,000. You can potentially help her 200 families save hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills.”

Before commissioners took the vote Wednesday morning, environmentalists, including Ward, urged the county to cancel the project.

Todd Randolph, a Tampa resident and member of the local Sierra Club, called the program a “false solution.”

“The biggest driver of carbon capture is the oil and gas industry,” he says. “And that doesn’t make sense.”

Commissioner Pat Kemp, who sided with environmentalists and was the only vote against the plan, said he agreed. This project distracts from tackling the root causes of climate change.

She seemed alarmed when I told her that the staff didn’t know of any facilities like the one proposed by RoCarbon in the United States.

“I’m not convinced at all by the information we have here,” Kemp said.

Chairman Ken Hagan, who first introduced the proposal to the commission in January, dismissed the claims made by public commenters as misinformation.

“Other than the fact that our board is not pursuing a food and water oversight agenda, no good reason was given to oppose this effort during public comment,” he wrote before calling for a vote. said. “This is the closest thing to an easy thing I’ve ever seen.”

The commission is scheduled to vote on the pilot program at its next meeting on April 17.

Ward said he expects the county to move forward with the project.

“We will be back to move forward with the project and are very excited about the evidence taking shape,” she said. “It will prove to be a scam and not a reality for our county.”

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