By Felicity Bradstock
With carbon capture having hit record levels, government investment in new projects is soaring, even Elon Musk is backing it. Here’s what’s happening in the space. As populations continue to grow and our energy burden to the planet increases, carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere have hit a 4.5 million-year high, reaching 419 parts per million (ppm) this May. The greenhouse gas traps heat from the sun and keeps it close to the earth’s surface, contributing to climate change and causing devastating environmental effects.
As a means of tackling the increase of carbon dioxide, governments and private energy companies are now looking for ways to capture carbon emissions produced during energy production to prevent their release into the air.
In the U.S., private firm Venture Global LNG Inc. is aiming to capture 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year from its sites across Louisiana, pending regulatory approval. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer hopes to use carbon capture, use, and storage (CCS) technology to compress and transport CO2 from gas sites to inject it into subsurface saline aquifers where it can be safely stored.
If plans go ahead, Venture believes the carbon capture would be equivalent to removing 200,000 cars from the roads annually.
As the production of traditional energy sources, such as oil, coal, and gas, remains vital for meeting our increasing global energy demand, projects like these can help win public and government approval by mitigating some of the risks traditional energy production poses to the environment.
Several other LNG companies across the U.S. have announced similar projects, in an attempt to support green policies without packing up production. NextDecade Corp., G2 Net Zero LNG, Cheniere Energy Inc., and Sempra Energy have all highlighted their interest in CCS ventures going forward.
NextDecade hopes, if approved, the introduction of a CCS system at its Texas Rio Grande site would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent. Meanwhile, Cheniere is working with Shell to deliver carbon-neutral U.S. LNG to Europe.
In Australia, the government has just announced the backing of six carbon capture projects at the cost of $39 million. The country hopes it will help it get on track to meet the International Energy Agency (IEA) aim of net-zero by 2050.
Independent gas producer Santos Ltd. will receive a significant chunk of this funding to contribute to its CCS project in depleted oil and gas fields in the Cooper Basin in South Australia, where the company hopes to store 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Glencore plc will also be awarded funds for its CCS project at a coal-fired plant in Queensland, where it plans to store carbon in the underground Surat Basin. Other proposals for funding are aimed at using rather than storing the captured carbon dioxide, as well as one innovative direct CO2 air capture project.
This week the Netherlands also announced heavy state investment for CCS, with $2.56 billion slated for a project in Rotterdam. This is nearly half of the government’s annual budget for sustainable projects.
The Porthos project, run by Shell, ExxonMobil, Air Liquide, and Air Products, hopes to collect emissions from plants and refineries to store the carbon in empty gas fields in the North Sea. It is expected to be the first large-scale CCS project within the European Union.
Private CCS developments, supported by state funding, are cropping up around the globe as a means to tackle the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Oil, gas, and coal firms all seem to be jumping on board in a bid to meet net-zero targets without giving up on traditional energy sources.