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