Tax credit, environmental concerns may spur next generation of carbon capture


Oil, power and other heavy industries are proposing to build nearly three dozen carbon capture projects across the country over the next several years as advancing climate change and a generous tax credit provide incentives for companies to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The burst of proposals is a sign that carbon capture technology might yet fulfill its promise of keeping fossil fuels viable in the low-carbon world needed to slow the pace of global warming. At least seven projects are planned in Texas, including a plant designed to pull carbon directly out of the air above the Permian Basin.

Several others are proposed for power plants, chemical plants and oil fields in 11 other states including Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana and California.

“Carbon capture is back,” said Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, a Washington organization that promotes clean energy solutions for businesses.

Carbon capture and storage separates and captures carbon dioxide from emissions, or in some cases pulls the gas directly from the atmosphere, and stores it in geological formations deep underground. In some cases, the carbon dioxide has commercial uses, such as pumping it underground to increase oil production, a process known as enhanced oil recovery.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. body considered the leading voice on climate change, has identified the widespread deployment of carbon capture technologies as critical to limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 as outlined in the Paris climate accord.

GOING UNDERGROUND: On Gulf Coast, is carbon storage the next big thing?

Although the technology to capture carbon released from industrial processes has been around for several decades, it has met with limited commercial success. Carbon capture and storage projects are not economical to build without substantial governmental incentives such as tax credits or other subsidies.

Projects that have been built have contended with scarce and inconsistent commercial markets for captured carbon dioxide. In August, for example, the merchant power company NRG said it shut its Petra Nova carbon capture project at the W.A. Parish Generating Station in Fort Bend County because the crash in oil prices dried up demand for carbon dioxide used for enhanced oil recovery.

The company said it would consider reopening Petra Nova if and when oil prices turned more favorable.

Tax credit might help

Adding a carbon capture plant to an existing coal-burning power plant can be pricey; the Petra Nova plant cost about $1 billion, according to the Energy Department. But interest in carbon capture technology has increased as industrial companies, particularly in oil and gas, have grappled with the question of how to reduce carbon footprints in an economical way

New technological developments, such as an advanced chemical process being studied by University of Texas…

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