Carbon Capture Helps Cut CO2 Emissions While Creating Sustainable Jobs

While the United States diversifies its energy portfolio and adds more renewables to the grid, we will still have to fall back on fossil fuel production in the immediate future. Therefore, accelerating technology that can reduce the direct emissions from the production of fossil fuels will be crucial as we transition to a clean energy future. Carbon capture is an effective means of reducing the amount of harmful emissions into the atmosphere, while putting this carbon to use in different applications.  

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) works by capturing and man-made CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities, and storing or sequestering them safely and permanently underground. The carbon can be collected either before it’s burned or after combustion, and converted into commercially viable products, such as fuels, chemicals, cements and plastics.

History of Carbon Capture in the U.S.

Commercial carbon capture was first deployed at scale in west Texas back in the early 70s. The emissions were captured from a natural gas processing facility and used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Since then the U.S. has been a global leader in this industry, and has successfully captured emissions from various industries – coal-fired plants, ethanol fermentation facilities, natural gas processing plants, hydrogen refineries and more.

Enhanced oil recovery is the most common form of carbon utilization in the U.S. today. This method works by injecting CO2 into partially depleted oilfields and mobilizes any remaining oil, bringing it to the surface. While it sounds initially counterproductive to use carbon dioxide to bring more fossil fuels to the surface, as Scientific American explains, this method prevents the oil from being burned, which releases more dangerous emissions into the atmosphere. By capturing and storing oil through EOR and using it in other ways, overall emissions are reduced by at least 24 percent.

Benefits of Carbon Capture

The benefits of carbon capture are far-reaching, as the Carbon Capture Coalition points out. A few of these include:

  • Extending domestic oil production
  • Reducing our reliance on foreign crude oil
  • Achieving significant emission reductions from coal, ethanol, oil and natural gas processing facilities
  • Creating and protecting good-paying jobs, from capture to transport to utilization
  • Sparking innovation and investment for developing new methods and uses of carbon capture

Job Opportunities in Carbon Capture and Sequestering

Carbon capture involves three main steps, which offers job opportunities along the value chain.

  1. The CO2 is collected before combustion (as with EOR) or after combustion (collected from the gas) using different processes.
  2. The CO2 is compressed and transported by tankers or via pipeline. Final underground storage also requires compression.
  3. The CO2 is stored in deep saline formations, mature oil and natural gas fields, and coal seams that are no longer mineable.

Installing and implementing carbon capture technology is an expensive feat. That’s why most CO2 captured is used in EOR. In February of 2018, Congress passed a tax credit called 45Q to enable the additional deployment of CCS projects in the U.S.

A 2019 modeling report, Carbon Capture & Storage in the U.S. Power Sector, found that the impact of this tax credit could be staggering:

“The modeling results show that 45Q leads to significant deployment of CCS, capturing and storing approximately 49 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually in 2030. The estimated CO2 that will be captured and stored is equivalent to removing roughly 7 million cars from U.S. roads. For perspective, this is greater than the number of new cars sold in the U.S. in all of 2017.”

As the U.S. is able to deploy more CCS technologies, it will create thousands of new job opportunities. In fact, a study by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) reveals that carbon capture technologies at coal facilities could support more than 150,000 jobs nationally. This includes highly skilled industrial, manufacturing, construction and services jobs across the value chain – from carbon capture to pipeline transport to CO2 utilization and underground storage.

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