Texas Leads the Way with Carbon Capture and Direct Air Capture

Mon, October 11, 2021

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an innovative technology that is gaining more and more attention lately for its ability to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But did you know the technology was developed by the oil and gas industry in Texas?

CCS has the potential to reduce emissions in some of the hardest to decarbonize industries.  Cement production, refining, steelmaking, etc. – all require high heat or intense energy use. Proponents of the “electrify everything” movement – those who want to see transportation, home heating, and the industrial sector increasingly rely on electricity rather than oil and natural gas – claim renewable energy sources can replace natural gas. But the truth is, in many cases, natural gas is more reliable.

By leveraging CCS, we can maintain the use of natural gas without emissions.

The Biden administration has encouraged the adoption of CCS for industries that will have difficulty decarbonizing or electrifying and has allocated billions of dollars in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to develop the infrastructure needed to make this technology widely available.

At its core, carbon capture was designed to capture and store carbon emissions permanently. The oil and gas industry played a pivotal role in developing the technology, mainly by using it to capture carbon emitted from wells, and experts continue to think the oil and gas industry will be a key component in scaling the technology for widespread use.

Along with CCS, direct air capture (DAC) is another key technology being used to mitigate carbon in the atmosphere. While both similarly address carbon in the atmosphere, the main difference between the two technologies is that DAC actually pulls existing carbon out of the air, whereas CCS eliminates or reduces the release of carbon at its source, including smokestacks and industrial chimneys. Both technologies are efficient in capturing carbon, with one Houston facility, backed by Exxon, aiming to remove 100 million tons of carbon emissions per year – or the equivalent of 20 million cars.

DAC pulls CO2 directly out of the air and pumps it deep underground, where it can be safely stored for millions of years. One of the largest ongoing projects is in the Permian Basin where oil giant, Occidental, is hoping the technology can pave the way for the first carbon-negative barrel of oil.

Facilities like Occidental’s and Iceland’s Orca work by drawing in large amounts of air with huge fans. The technology then uses chemicals to selectively pull out the CO2 while releasing oxygen, nitrogen and other gases back into the atmosphere. Once the carbon is pulled from the air, it can be pumped deep into the ground.  Occidental, however, takes a different approach, and uses the carbon to pump crude out of aging wells. Occidental’s facility is set to open by 2023, at which point it will have the capacity to capture at least 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, a quarter of what a coal power plant produces during the same amount of time. Orca, however, aims to reach 300-million tons – or 1% of annual global CO2 emissions by 2025, at which point it would be the largest direct air capture facility in the world. Adding to Orca’s unique attributes, that facility is powered by the Hellisheidi geothermal plant.

Both CCS and DAC will play pivotal roles in eliminating carbon from our atmosphere. Just as Texas has led the way when it comes to energy production, we are also leading in the development of technologies that will ensure natural gas can continue to provide abundant, affordable energy for years to come.