Latest Oil & Gas News: Carbon Capture (CCUS)

The latest oil & gas news related to carbon capture, utilisation and storage around the world on theclimateconnection.org

Update: 6th May 2021

Big players predicted to dominate the carbon capture and storage sector

London-based data analytics and consulting company, GlobalData, predicts that the carbon capture sector will become increasingly dominated by oil giants. Small and medium-sized oil and gas producers are less likely to incorporate carbon capture and storage. This is because these smaller companies will need to spend more resources relative to their size compared to big players like Exxon Mobil.1

Larger fossil fuel companies have significant infrastructure and capital advantages over smaller competitors. GlobalData recommends that governments incentivise carbon capture to promote investments from less profitable operators. More regulation is also needed to encourage the oil and gas industry to invest in carbon capture and storage.2

The lack of interest in carbon capture from all but the biggest oil giants has led to the creation of the largest incentive prize in history. Elon Musk is offering USD $100 million to anyone who can demonstrate direct air capture technology. To win, the design must be able to remove at least 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. They must also show a plan to scale up to capturing one billion tonnes of CO2.3 The prize money and publicity around the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition may help develop carbon capture and storage for smaller players, despite GlobalData’s predictions.

Update: 30th April 2021

Exxon Mobil proposes new CCUS project

American multinational oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil is proposing an ambitious new carbon capture and storage project. The Houston Ship Channel CCS aims to capture and store 907 million tonnes of CO2 each year by 2040. It would increase the US’ carbon capture capacity more than seven times over. This equates to the amount of CO2 that 120 million acres of forest can sequester.4 

Houston Ship Channel CCUS will require both public and private investment of around USD $100 billion. It will capture CO2 emissions from petrochemical plants and store them beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Pressure on the fossil fuel industry to invest more into activities with a lower carbon footprint appears to be behind the move.5

Exxon Mobil already owns 20 per cent of the global carbon capture capacity. They claim responsibility for “40 per cent of the total anthropogenic CO2 captured to date”.6 The Houston Ship Channel CCS project will be one of the world’s largest CCUS projects in the world.7 It shows the faith Exxon Mobil is placing in CCUS as a carbon reduction approach.   

Update: 23rd April 2021

Scottish CCUS project receives boost; the government makes unfounded capacity predictions

Shell and Harbour Energy have become equal partners with Storegga in Scotland’s Acorn Project. The Acord Project is one of the largest and most developed CCUS endeavours in the UK.8 It should become operational by the mid-2020s.9 

CO2 will be captured from the St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire. The terminal processes oil and gas from North Sea offshore fields and platforms. Captured CO2 will then be transported through the Goldeneye pipeline for underground storage in an old gas field.10

By the Acorn Project’s own estimates, five to six million tonnes of CO2 will be captured and stored by 2030. Yet, the Scottish government has claimed that the facility could store 10 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas by 2030. This leap epitomises the unreasonable optimism governments have often placed in CCS to solve the issue of climate change. The unfounded claim by the Scottish government has subsequently been criticised as an attempt to make its efforts add up to net-zero targets.11

Update: 15th April 2021

CCUS technologies selected for new large-scale US project

Wabash Valley Resources is a repurposed gasification plant in Indiana.12 They are the only hydrogen production facility in the US state of Indiana.13 The plant will use Honeywell UOP CCUS technologies.14 They aim to capture and sequester 1.65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.15

Plans to convert the hydrogen production facility and carbon capture and sequestration project began in 2016.16 Investment for the project closed in 2019. Conversion of the plant and construction of the CCUS facility should complete in 2022.17 Cost predictions are USD $600 million.18 If the project reaches completion, it will be one of the largest CCUS facilities in the US.19

Update: 8th April 2021

GNV DL updates CCS transportation safety guidelines

GNV DL has issued new safety procedures for transporting CO2 through pipelines for CCS projects.20 The new guidance reflects an assumption by GNV DL that CCS operations will increase worldwide in the coming years.21

The classification society is a recognised advisor for the maritime industry.22 They provide testing, certification and technical advisory services to the energy value chain, including oil and gas.23 Without GNV DL certification, certain cargo ships, offshore rigs and electricity power grids would not be able to operate.24

GNV DL’s updated recommended practice gives guidance to the industry on transporting CO2.25 It ensures that the greenhouse gas can be transported safely.26 Pipeline operators must, for example, fully assess potential threats, failure mechanisms and the possibility of pipeline failures to maintain safe operation.27

Update: 31st March 2021

US Senate bills aim to develop the CCUS industry

Two new bills, aimed at supporting the CCUS industry, were introduced to the US Senate this week.28 

The Storing CO2 And Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act intends to assist US firms to acquire CCUS infrastructure.29 For instance, funding and grants will be granted to expand transportation infrastructure to move captured CO2 to storage sites.30 It is part of a wider programme directed at cutting CO2 emissions.31  

Meanwhile, the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Tax Credit Amendments Act expands the remits of the 45Q tax credit.32 The 45Q tax credit provides companies with a deduction for every tonne of sequestered carbon.33 This includes carbon that is not stored permanently but instead is used for enhanced oil recovery.34 

The Act enlarges the time in which projects can begin construction and still qualify for the credit until the end of 2030. It also expands the scope for which facilities receive the 45Q tax credit.35 

Furthermore, it raises the value of the 45Q credit per metric tonne of CO2 captured and stored. CO2 stored underground receives a higher credit value than carbon used in other industries. 36

These measures may encourage more companies to install CCUS facilities. They have the potential to incentivise companies with existing facilities to store more of the carbon permanently.

Update: March 25th, 2021

European CCUS projects move forward

Ahead of COP26 (November 1, 2021 to November 12, 2021), the UK moves forward with its plans for CCUS facilities. Two large-scale projects have received GBP £34 million from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Humber Zero and Zero Carbon Humber will use the government’s funding to develop CCUS technology in a UK pollution hotspot. Commitment has also been made to offshore storage and transportation via the Northern Endurance Partnership.37

Early-stage CCUS projects in Norway are also making progress, without government support. Baker Hughes and Horisont Energi have signed a memorandum of understanding for the Polaris project.38 The two companies will explore new processes and technologies with the Polaris carbon storage project.39 Its total carbon storage capacity is anticipated to exceed 100 million tonnes.40 It is currently in the concept phase. The construction phase is predicted for the second half of 2022.41

Update: March 19th, 2021

UK government funds worlds’ first low carbon industrial cluster

The UK government has awarded GBP £72 million to HyNet North West to create the world’s first low carbon industrial cluster. It is located in the northwest of England where the country’s energy-intensive advanced manufacturing and chemical production is concentrated. Funding for the project is part of the UK government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.42

The intention is for HyNet North West to capture and store over ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030.43 It is expected to become operational in 2025,44 but CCUS projects have a history of suffering from delays.45

Similarly, the oil and gas heavyweight, Chevron, is partnering with Schlumberger and Microsoft to develop a bioenergy plant with CCUS in California.46 Once completed, the facility should remove 300,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.47 A final investment decision will not be made until 2022, however, so completion may still be a long way off.48

March 12th, 2021

Is the oil and gas industry sustainable?

The oil and gas industry’s operations account for 9 per cent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.49 They also produce fossil fuels that create an additional 33 per cent of global emissions.50 By directly and indirectly contributing 42 per cent of the emissions responsible for global warming, it is safe to say that oil and gas are unsustainable. 


CCUS and net-zero emissions targets

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is one way the fossil fuel industry hopes to meet net-zero emissions targets. The latest oil and gas news suggests that despite “years of slow progress, new investment incentives and strengthened climate goals are building new momentum behind CCUS”.51 But, as the world strives to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, action is now urgently required.

How do CCUS developments affect the oil and gas industry? 

CCUS developments could facilitate the continual burning of fossil fuel indefinitely. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned of the dangers of a planetary temperature increase above 1.5°C.52 196 Parties from around the world agreed under the Paris Agreement to aim to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.53 By promising to capture and store their carbon emissions, the oil and gas industry can persist in its operations, without deterring environmentally conscious investors.

Is CCUS the solution to an environmentally-friendly oil and gas industry?

The International Energy Agency regards CCUS as the only environmentally-friendly technology solution for the oil and gas industry. Their Sustainable Development Scenario anticipates that CCUS will supply 15 per cent of the cumulative emissions reduction for the global power sector until 2070. To achieve this, they need to increase the amount of CO2 captured from fossil fuel power plants to 220 million tonnes in 2030 and 4.0 billion tonnes in 2070.54

However, these projections seem disproportionate to the actual capacity and capabilities of current CCUS technology. There are just 19 large-scale industrial and two large-scale CCUS power facilities in operation today. Their combined capacity is about 40 million tonnes of CO2 captured annually. To stay on a 1.5°C rise climate trajectory, the carbon capture capacity of CCUS facilities would need to increase by a factor of 35. Large capital projects, such as these, require six to ten years from conception to commissioning. New projects would, therefore, need immediate approval and investment for realistic implementation.55

Oil and gas news: Clean energy alternatives

Renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and hydropower, offer a clean alternative to fossil fuels, such as oil and gas. They are the only category of energy that grew globally at double digits over the past ten years.56 Their average annual growth rate over the last decade was 13.7 per cent.57 Between 2009 and 2019, global consumption of renewables almost quadrupled from 8.2 to 29.0 exajoules of energy.58

Continued transition to renewable energies would undoubtedly reduce global CO2 emissions. Moreover, it would not require massive and immediate investment into nascent and uncertain technologies, like carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

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