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CCUS: What´s the score?

Mark Silverstone's picture
Principal JMP Services AS

30+ years in Oil & Gas Industry Field of Interest: Environmental issues in general; waste management issues in particular. 

  • Member since 2002
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  • Jul 5, 2021
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I recently attended a webinar hosted by the API (American Petroleum Institute)  and included panel members from the CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage) Institute.  The title of the webinar was "The Long-Awaited Promise of Carbon Capture." The subject was the status of the technology and political aspects of CCUS. You may be interested in the CCUS Institute members

Most of the discussion was quite anodyne, i.e. promoting supposed advances in CCUS technology and discussion of "45Q", the tax credit that is luring US companies to capture CO2. I should also note that the planned "guest of honor",  Congressman Crenshaw (R-Texas) couldn´t attend due to "technical difficulties". Go figure!

Most of the questions in the Q&A part of the webinar were related to the cost of CCUS, and the answers were revealing in their evasion of the issue. The speakers responded to questions about cost per tonne CO2 by saying 1) They cannot quote a cost because it varies according to the application, e.g. from air, from a particular exhaust stream or particular size of installation.  Indeed, it is true that CCUS refers to a large range of different technologies for different purposes with different requirements and costs. However, that is what people asked the panel to address. And they refused to do that. 2) They expect the costs to come down as a result of economies of scale, process improvements from experience and from new (unspecified) technologies. What was most revealing was this self-serving argument: CCUS is an essential part of our decarbonization efforts, especially for certain industries which are most difficult to decarbonize or electrify, e.g. cement manufacture. So, the cost is not an issue!

FYI - The IEA does provide some information on cost:

 

 

Please note:  These costs are only for carbon capture. The very considerable costs for transporting, providing a space for storage (i.e. a well into a suitable formation),  injection and monitoring are not included.  If a suitable use for the CO2 is identified and is nearby, the extra costs could be minimal.

Also, if you are interested in different CCUS technologies, please see this excellent summary on carbon capture technologies by Roger Arnold on Energy Central.

Overall, I think it is fair to say that the webinar panel members were evasive at best, disingenuous at worst. But, I do hope they read this and respond.

API recently endorsed a carbon tax, but also said:

“API is not endorsing a specific price on carbon, but rather a "set of principles" on which carbon pricing can be based, API President and CEO Mike Sommers said during a press conference. "It could encompass an economy-wide transparent carbon tax or a cap on emissions, like the cap and trade program," Sommers said.”

Based  on what I heard in this webinar, it is clear to me, at least, that the oil and gas industry is depending on the US government to pay massively for CCUS while still producing and selling oil and gas for fuel.

With no hesitation, the panelists on this webinar declared that "45Q" tax credits on their own are not nearly enough to spur CCUS development. I took that to mean that CCUS is still way too expensive, except for purposes such as CO2 injection in order to increase oil and gas production from a reservoir.

What may be most insidious is the circularity of the CCUS argument: The more oil and gas that is burned, the more necessary is CCUS, regardless of cost. And vice-versa, the more CCUS is developed, the more oil and gas can be burned.

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