With more than 40 percent of the global capacity of carbon management projects (13 in operation and more than 60 in different stages of development), the United States is expected to play a major role in the deployment of carbon …
California has demonstrated leadership in setting ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The state’s target: Reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
While California is reducing emissions and expanding clean energy through many means, including a cap-and-trade program, the state appears to be underestimating the effectiveness and readiness of carbon capture technology and how it could help California reach its goal.
In consensus comments on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) draft 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update, a diverse group of nonprofits (including C2ES); environmental groups; and oil, gas, and ethanol companies outlined the current state of carbon capture deployment, the technology’s benefits, and how California could address roadblocks that may be hindering its deployment.
Carbon capture technology has been deployed in U.S. commercial-scale industrial facilities since the early 1970s, including at natural gas processing plants and fertilizer production plants. The comment letter lists more than a dozen notable U.S. projects.
Most recently, Archer Daniels Midland’s Illinois Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage project – the world’s first commercial-scale carbon capture project on ethanol — began operations in April. More than 1 million tons of CO2 will be captured and stored in Mount Simon sandstone. Carbon capture on biofuels could one day lead to negative emissions, since bioenergy crops absorb greenhouse gases as they grow.
Earlier this year, NRG finished – on time and under budget – the first American retrofit of a coal-fired power plant with carbon capture technology and the largest of its kind in the world. The NRG Petra Nova project near Houston, Texas, is capturing about 1.6 million tons of CO2 annually for use in enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR). Studies have documented the net benefit to the climate of CO2-EOR using manmade CO2.
Carbon capture plays an important role in reducing emissions at a lower cost than other scenarios modelled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the industrial sector, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded there are no practical alternatives to the use of carbon capture technology to achieve deep decarbonization.
Accelerating carbon capture deployment also could have co-benefits for environmental justice because carbon capture retrofits are often accompanied by improvements to promote efficiency and reduce sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.
Next generation technologies could do even more:
California has certainly taken positive steps on carbon capture. As noted in our comments, a major step forward is CARB’s progress toward drafting and adopting a Quantification Methodology (QM) for determining how to account for emissions reductions from carbon capture and storage. The concept paper was released April 17.
Looking forward, the pace of carbon capture deployment in California may be determined largely by legal, regulatory and policy considerations. Among the recommendations for CARB in our consensus comments were:
California should be commended for its leadership in setting an ambitious emissions-cutting goal and charting a path toward reaching it. California can also lead by addressing key policy and regulatory questions to ensure that carbon capture is part of its overall plan.
CCS Joint Comments were from: California Resources Corporation, Chevron, Clean Air Task Force, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Conestoga Energy, EBR Development LLC, 8 Rivers, Global CCS Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Occidental Petroleum, Shell, Steyer-Taylor Center, and White Energy.