Dif­fer­ent paths

The routes di­verge in the U.S. and the EU on ap­proaches to car­bon cap­ture.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - BUSINESS - By Collin Ea­ton and James Os­borne collin.ea­ton@chron.com james.os­borne@chron.com

In a low-car­bon world, the fu­ture of fos­sil fu­els may de­pend on tech­nol­ogy that can re­move car­bon diox­ide from the emis­sions cre­ated by burn­ing coal, oil, gaso­line and nat­u­ral gas. But with the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try fac­ing an ex­is­ten­tial threat as most na­tions tighten reg­u­la­tions on green­house gas emis­sions, Europe and the United States ap­pear to be on dif­fer­ent tracks to ad­vanc­ing car­bon cap­ture tech­nol­ogy.

As three Euro­pean oil com­pa­nies as­sem­ble a ma­jor car­bon stor­age project in Nor­way as part of an ef­fort to mit­i­gate ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures, ad­vo­cates of car­bon cap­ture are bat­tling for fed­eral sup­port. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has pro­posed cut­ting fund­ing to the pro­gram that funds re­search and de­vel­op­ment into car­bon cap­ture by more than 50 per­cent to $280 mil­lion — less than half the pro­posal for nu­clear en­ergy de­vel­op­ment. First of its kind

In Europe, driven by the Paris cli­mate agree­ment signed by nearly 200 na­tions, Nor­way’s Sta­toil, France’s To­tal and An­gloDutch oil gi­ant Royal Dutch Shell have struck a deal to de­velop equip­ment and fa­cil­i­ties that will store car­bon diox­ide em­a­nat­ing from in­dus­trial sites in Nor­way.

The com­pa­nies aim to cap­ture 1.5 mil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide per year in the project’s first phase and then, in a bid to spur in­vest­ments in fu­ture car­bon cap­ture ef­forts, de­sign ex­panded stor­age ca­pac­ity. That could make it the world’s first in­ter­na­tional com­mer­cial stor­age project col­lect­ing car­bon diox­ide from in­dus­trial sites.

The com­pa­nies said they’ll trans­port the car­bon diox­ide, by ship to a ter­mi­nal on the coun­try’s west coast, be­fore the car­bon diox­ide is trans­ferred to stor­age tanks and then piped into in­jec­tion wells on the seabed.

“With­out car­bon cap­ture and stor­age, it is not re­al­is­tic to meet the global cli­mate tar­get as de­fined in the Paris Agree­ment,” said Irene Rum­mel­hoff, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for new en­ergy so­lu­tions at Sta­toil, adding that a “mas­sive scale-up” of car­bon cap­ture and stor­age projects is needed.

In the United States, which Trump with­drew from the Paris agree­ments ear­lier this year, car­bon cap­ture ad­vo­cates are lob­by­ing fu­ri­ously to con­vince Congress to keep alive fund­ing for the tech­nol­ogy that has strug­gled to get off the ground so far. Rich Pow­ell, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ClearPath Foun­da­tion, a group ad­vo­cat­ing for re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions, said En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry has in­di­cated that he might sup­port more fund­ing for ad­vanc­ing car­bon cap­ture tech­nol­ogy.

At a meet­ing with the Na­tional Petroleum Coun­cil last month, Perry urged oil com­pa­nies to study car­bon cap­ture, say­ing the tech­nol­ogy had “ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial.” Ques­tions abound

But even with some suc­cess sto­ries — like NRG En­ergy’s retrofitting of a Texas coal plant through the Pe­tra Nova project — the costs re­main high and un­cer­tainty abounds around the ques­tion of what to do with the cap­tured car­bon diox­ide, which has lim­ited uses, such as pump­ing it un­der­ground to in­crease oil pro­duc­tion.

The tech­nol­ogy, how­ever, still has sup­port among some Democrats and Repub­li­cans in Congress.

“We’ll see whether (the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get) is ready to fight for those deep cuts,” Pow­ell said.

Michael Stra­vato / New York Times

Car­bon cap­ture has seen some suc­cess sto­ries in the U.S., but con­cerns about cost and what to do with the cap­tured car­bon diox­ide hin­der its de­vel­op­ment.

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