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Could the Permian Basin help reduce carbon emissions in Texas?

For business

Carbon capture creates controversy

The study’s results could add fuel to the carbon capture debate. Supporters of the approach say storing CO2 is critical to energy stability for the future. Energy providers could continue to use natural gas in regions that have a net-zero emissions target. The availability of natural gas would also offset concerns about irregular energy supplies from solar and wind power.

Eleven energy companies recently backed a call for the large-scale deployment of CCS. A press release from ExxonMobil, NRG, and others stated that the companies could collectively capture 50 million metric tons of CO2 per year by 2030.

Critics argue that the carbon capture process isn’t as environmentally friendly as it seems. Environmentalists point out that pumping carbon into old oil fields may enable oil and gas companies to extract more fossil fuels. In one example of this, ExxonMobil sells CO2 captured at a Wyoming carbon capture plant to other oil companies. These companies then pump the CO2 into used oil fields to bring oil to the surface that would otherwise remain out of reach. The result is that more oil is produced, creating more CO2.

“Throughout the history of CCS as a technology, there have been parts of industry that have genuinely supported its development and commercialization, and there have been parts of industry who want to use it as an excuse for inaction,” says Kurt Waltzer, managing director of the Clean Air Task Force. “There are some in the oil industry, like Occidental and Shell, that are working to develop this technology. And it isn’t clear to me that Exxon is working aggressively to make carbon capture and storage a solution to address the climate.”

What does the carbon storage study mean for me?

The Stanford study could help policymakers make decisions about where to locate carbon capture sites. Projects to store carbon captured from oil or gas may develop faster in the Permian as a result. The proximity of disused oil fields to existing sites would keep transportation and infrastructure costs low.

If significant carbon storage in the Permian proves viable, energy companies would have a strong argument to keep using natural gas. Natural gas would remain a big part of the generating capacity you rely on for your electricity supply. The continued use of cheap natural gas could help keep electricity prices affordable.

CCS technology could also help slow the impact of climate change. That would ultimately benefit all of us. As lead scientist Zoback puts it, “We have a global challenge to store enormous volumes of carbon dioxide in the subsurface in the next ten to twenty years. We need places to safely store massive volumes of carbon dioxide for hundreds of years, which obviously includes not allowing pressure increases to trigger earthquakes.”

Jordan Smith is a writer and researcher with expertise in renewable energy and deregulated energy markets. Jordan has written extensively on the deregulated energy market in Texas and the challenges confronted in the clean energy transition, and conducted research projects within the energy industry. Further articles by Jordan can be found at ChooseEnergy.com or SaveOnEnergy.com.

 

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