May 11, 2022
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Vanessa A. Countryman
Secretary Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street NE
Washington, DC 20549-1090
RE: RIN 3235-AM87; The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors; File Number S7-10-22
Dear Ms. Countryman,
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed rule amendments, “The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors.” The Carbon Neutral Coalition’s mission is to make Texas carbon neutral by 2050. Although we are actively engaged in creating the framework for carbon neutral investments that will lower our carbon emissions, we oppose the SEC’s new regulation requiring Scope 3 emission disclosure. The disclosures will not result in emission reductions as intended. Instead, Scope 3 emission disclosures will result only in confusion and overcounting for Scope 3 emission responsibility.
The Carbon Neutral Coalition (CNC) is a Texas organization dedicated to shaping the future of fossil fuels. CNC was founded by Corbin J. Robertson Jr., Chairman and CEO of Natural Resource Partners, and CNC’s Advisory Board is chaired by Susan Combs, former Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of Interior. The objective of CNC is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while also preserving affordable, reliable energy, creating jobs, and maintaining a strong economy, through the use of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies and other innovative energy initiatives.
Active engagement in carbon reduction strategies, such as CCUS, is the smartest path toward carbon neutrality, not the reporting of Scope 3 emissions. Not only will the reporting be overly complicated, inaccurate, and exaggerated, climate solutions, to be effective, would have to be global, not national, to have any significant effect. SEC reporting by U.S. entities alone will not touch the majority of energy sources. Materials for renewables, batteries, and elective vehicles come from other countries who will not comply with SEC reporting. To be accurate and effective, all energy sources need the same reporting standards, all over the world. The new Scope 3 rule is overly burdensome on the U.S., without achieving any significant goal. For these reasons, CNC opposes these rule amendments.
I. CCUS Technology and Mitigating Effects
CNC recently provided comment in support of the Council for Environmental Quality’s focus on Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) technologies, and the administration’s commitment to “accelerating the responsible development and deployment of CCUS to make it a widely available, increasingly cost-effective, and rapidly scalable climate solution across all industrial sectors.
To address climate-related risks, the answer is not more regulation and reporting but instead the adoption of carbon capture technology, storage, and the utilization of captured carbon to create new products and cleaner fuels like hydrogen and/or store carbon underground, in grasslands, forests, and seas will, on balance mitigate or offset the climate risks that concern the agency. As public companies engage in these activities, and more widely deploy these technologies (as clearly contemplated by the CEQ requested public comment), investors should be aware of these positive developments, including:
II. Global Climate Change Solutions
The CO2 contribution to climate change is a global problem, not a national problem. The U.S. has been more effective at reducing CO2 emissions than any other country, as evidenced by the charts below. To be truly effective, transparent and accurate accounting for all CO2 emissions from around the world is needed. Climate change solutions require global standards and implementation, rather than overly burdensome and duplicative reporting requirements for the U.S.
III. Renewables, Batteries, and EV Sources
The materials needed for renewables, such as solar and wind, batteries, and EVs are sourced overseas (see chart below from the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries 2020).
Copper demand. What about its footprint? Copper Mines have huge environmental impacts, concentrates are shipped, and manufacturing is overseas.
Zinc demand. What about its footprint? Mines have huge environmental impacts, concentrates are shipped, smelters are nasty, manufacturing is overseas.
China controls reserves and processing for 70% of the world’s supply of lithium, cobalt, rare earth, and other materials needed to manufacture solar panels, batteries, EVs, and other renewable components.
As evidenced by these charts, the pursuit of renewables, batteries, and EV materials present many more problems than solutions to any climate challenge. Questions include:
The shift in energy intensive manufacturing to the emerging economies means that the SEC reporting will have little effect on CO2 emissions. As these trends continue, global coordination and accountable reporting become more essential (see Chart below).
Waste Management: Oil, gas and coal are accountable for their waste. Wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and biomass need to plan for their permanent waste disposal and other footprints around the globe. After 40 years of operation and nuclear waste generation, the US is allowing the nuclear waste to be stored onsite in short lived containers.
How will the SEC account for the waste created by the overseas mining, transport, processing, assembly, and distribution of all the materials used in the energy supply chain? Renewables, batteries, and EVs are completely dependent on foreign sources that do NOT report to the SEC, making any goals of an overall reduction in emissions impossible under these efforts.
IV. Detriment of Reporting Requirement on Scope 3 Emissions
Scope 3 Emissions reporting comes with many detriments and barriers to reaching climate goals, achieving the opposite of intended effect. As evidenced above, inconsistent international standards will negate the accuracy and accountability of SEC Scope 1, 2, and 3 reporting. Without consistent standards, and a global application, emissions reporting required by the SEC will result in confusion and inaccuracy. Further, potential costs of new rules and the difficulty of accurate reporting will stall innovation which would effectively reduce carbon emissions. Assessing who is responsible for Scope 3 emissions will be very difficult and contradictory; overcounting Scope 3 emissions is dishonest. The inevitable inaccuracy of reporting, due to inconsistent standards and overlap of emission information, will inevitably lead to lawsuits against the energy industry, again tying up the resources and focus away from innovation.
There are many parties that are partially responsible for Scope 3 emissions. There is no way that the responsibility can be assigned, so Scope 3 emissions are not over-counted. Energy production, transportation, processing, distribution and its multitude of products will create multiple entities reporting the same thing, which will exponentially over state Scope 3.
V. Need for Energy Parity in Regulations
Wind, solar, batteries, and EVs are manufactured from materials that are sourced internationally, have extensive carbon, environmental, social, and import footprints and are creating environmental damage around the world. The SEC must enforce the source standards on all energy sources. It does not matter where carbon is emitted. It has the same effect on climate.
Rather than punishing U.S. energy sources, there is a need to create a reporting template at multiple levels to create an accountable standard for all energy sources, such as a reporting template in which each company will disclose information that measures its carbon footprint, energy intensity or density, environmental impact, social/human impact, waste management, import dependence and economic impact for its products. Please provide guidance for how each reporting standard should be measured. To be truly equitable, there needs to be a template setting standards and measurement so that all energy is measured the same.
Each energy source should be evaluated using comparable metrics including its current contribution to the US energy supply:
In conclusion, the SEC, our federal and state governments should confront accountability with a global, cradle-to-grave analysis that all energy sources are required to report on a standardized basis that is accountable, verifiable, factual, and universal. There is no energy source available that does not have a carbon, environmental, social/human, waste management and import footprint. The evaluation should provide a level playing field based upon total, factual accountability. Where there is not a source of reliable, factual data, reporting sources should provide a transparent accounting for the estimated footprints. Our global economy is interdependent, but transparent information is not available on all impacts. If the SEC’s reporting requirement objective is to reduce CO2 emissions, it MUST have international accountability for all energy sources.
As former Comptroller of the state of Texas, I was its CFO and Treasurer. Regulatory frameworks inevitably spur business and investment decisions. In my view, the goal should be to balance regulatory need versus regulatory burden, and I am very concerned that the proposed regulation as drafted would be unreasonably burdensome, deter capital investment in vital energy processes, and not produce a good result.
Susan Combs Chair, Advisory Board, Carbon Neutral Coalition
“Texas’s natural resources make it a natural fit for hydrogen energy and vehicles.” – Texas Monthly
The energy industry continues to face growing energy demands from an increasing population, while also being called to reduce carbon emissions on a significant scale. Innovations in technology and process, including Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage, provide one pathway for an array of industries both to meet demand and to attempt to achieve carbon neutrality. Toward that end, industry and government are increasingly focused on the use of hydrogen, an energy source touted as an affordable, reliable, clean, and secure energy by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and industry groups alike. The DOE has billed hydrogen as the fuel product that can “enable U.S. energy security, resiliency, and economic prosperity.”i As a key player in the oil and gas industry, Texas has the opportunity to lead the way in providing that energy stability and reliability, while also seeing the economic benefits of advancing the potential future of fuel.
Hydrogen is a one-hundred percent renewable, zero emission fuel that can be produced from various resources, including natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewables, such as solar and wind power. In 2020, one percent of hydrogen production in the U.S. was from electrolysis, while 99 percent was from fossil fuels. “Fossil fuels are expected to continue as the main source of hydrogen through 2050 based on International Energy Agency projections driven by abundant supply, low cost, and expected development of large-scale carbon capture and storage.” ii
However, because it can be produced through diverse resources, it can be produced on a large scale. Hydrogen is an invisible gas, but it is classified in name by colors, from green to grey to blue, yellow, turquoise, and pink. While broadly all hydrogen is seen as a “clean” fuel, the three main variations of produced hydrogen, grey, blue, and green, each produced through different processes and with different carbon intensities:
Grey hydrogen, which is currently the most common, is derived from natural gas, and is most commonly used in the chemical industry to make fertilizer and for refining oil.iii
In that report, the Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI), through their collaborative of the Greater Houston Partnership and Center for Houston’s Future, also forecasted that Texas could build a $100 billion hydrogen economy, with 180,000 jobs by 2050, through initiatives focused on policy, infrastructure, innovation, and talent. The report projects that clean hydrogen demand could grow from current 3.6 million tons (MT) to 21 MT by 2050, with 11 MT of local demand and 10 MT available for export. ix
On a global level, PricewaterhouseCoopers analyzed the green hydrogen market on a worldwide scale and released findings on potential demand growth. The report projected that through 2030, demand growth will maintain a moderate, steady growth through smaller application across industrial, transport, energy and building sectors. The growth is then expected to accelerate from 2035 forward, due to a decrease in production costs over time, technological advances, and economies of scale.x In 2020, GoldmanSachs projected that green hydrogen could supply up to 25% of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and become a $10 trillion market by 2050.xi
Other companies such as Sempra are seeking ways to support green hydrogen initiatives, with goals to support the expansion of electric grids, with increased flexibility, with low or zero carbon energy such as hydrogen. The Southern California Gas Company recently announced a green hydrogen energy infrastructure system, called The Angeles Link, to serve the Loas Angeles County with a hydrogen-ready, interstate pipeline system in an effort to decarbonize dispatchable electric generation.xii More innovative initiatives to use hydrogen in order to deliver reliable, affordable energy that is low or zero-carbon are sure to follow.
Hydrogen Economy Advancement
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the current largest consumer of hydrogen is in oil refining, followed by use in chemical production, ammonia production, and methanol production. Steelmaking consumed a minor amount of hydrogen in 2020, but demand in the iron and steel industry is expected to rise. In the transportation sector, hydrogen has been used in limited amounts, but as fuel cell electric vehicle development expands in the U.S. and Japan, increased use is expected as a motor fuel for both light and heavy duty vehicles.xiii The Texas-based company Hydron has begun the effort to bring hydrogen-powered, autonomous ready long-haul Class 8 trucks to the Texas roadway.xiv Hydrogen fuel cells offer several distinct advantages over battery electric vehicles in the heavy freight sector, with substantially longer range and lower refueling times.
A federal effort to further increase reliance on all hydrogen is already underway. DOE has put in place a major initiative to advance the production, transport, storage, and utilization of hydrogen in an affordable way, across multiple sectors.xv “[email protected],” the DOE initiative, is built on the idea that hydrogen as a fuel source carries many benefits. First, hydrogen contains the highest energy content by weight of all fuels and is seen as a critical feedstock for all chemical industry. Second, it can be a zero-emissions fuel, making it a critical part of many industry and government goals for reducing or eliminating emissions. Hydrogen can also be used as a ‘responsive load’ on the grid, enabling stability and energy storage and increasing utilization of power generators.
The DOE identifies the next steps in expanding the value proposition of hydrogen technologies as increasing infrastructure and seeking further opportunities for the use of hydrogen. Those other uses include “steel manufacturing, ammonia production, synthetic or electrofuel production (using CO2 plus hydrogen), and the use of hydrogen for marine, rail, datacenter, and heavy-duty vehicle applications.”xvi The [email protected] program offers some incentive, focusing on early-stage research and development projects and facilitated through cooperative agreements with matching DOE funds. There remains a push, however, for a prominent role for the private sector in advancing hydrogen use: “[w]hile DOE’s role focuses on early-stage R&D, such as new concepts for dispatchable hydrogen production, delivery, and storage, reliance on the private sector for demonstration is critical.”
In October of 2021, Senator John Cornyn and others introduced a bi-partisan bill package to incentivize hydrogen infrastructure and adoption of hydrogen in certain sectors. The three bill initiative creates research and grant programs for advancements in hydrogen infrastructure, with the following three focus areas:
In this initiative, priority will be given to projects that will maximize emissions reductions. In February of 2022, the Port of Corpus Christi and Apex Clean Energy, Ares, and EPIC Midstream entered an agreement to explore development of gigawatt-scale green hydrogen production, storage, transportation, and export as part of PCC’s burgeoning hydrogen hub. This agreement builds upon an agreement from May of 2021 to work towards developing infrastructure to support green hydrogen production.
Major oil companies such as BP and Shell are pursuing hydrogen projects that may begin as blue hydrogen but will likely yield increasingly more green hydrogen as the electrolier marketplace matures. With this increased focus, BP projects that hydrogen could make up 16% of global energy consumption by 2050 if net zero carbon-emissions goals are to be met, where it is currently at less than 1%.xvii Currently, the United States produces more than 10 1million metric tons of hydrogen each year, which amounts to one-seventh of the world’s supply.xviii A move toward increased hydrogen production has been percolating in the Texas industry for years. In a 2017 Texas Monthly article, Michael Lewis, program manager for fuel cell vehicle research in the Center for Electromechanics, University of Texas at Austin, identified Texas’ unique ability to be a leader in hydrogen production. “Texas’s natural resources make it a natural fit for hydrogen energy and vehicles. Our natural gas resources are an economical feedstock for hydrogen production. Curtailed wind power in West Texas could power the production of hydrogen for use in vehicles and other applications. And miles of hydrogen pipeline already exist along the Texas coast, which would ease distribution.”xix With Texas holding the majority of 1600 miles of hydrogen pipeline infrastructurexx, Texas has an advantage in pursuing the advancement of hydrogen production.
Geological storage of hydrogen is another topic that must be considered in the advancement of hydrogen use. Salt caverns have met current storage needs, which allow for fast withdrawal and injection rates but can be costly and have limited capacity. The Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas (BEG) has identified two categories of storage reservoirs that could provide more available and advantageous storage: (1) depleted oil and gas reservoirs; and (2) saline aquifers, which have proven storage capabilities and are already supported by infrastructure. xxi The BEG has identified the need for an inventory of sites for use in order to make progress on hydrogen storage; the identification of such sites could also help further other low carbon initiatives such as CCUS, by locating storage that could be utilized for both long term sequestration and immediate term hydrogen storage.
Industrial adoption of hydrogen as a primary fuel could be accelerated by additional incentives. One proposal is to create “Hydrogen Development Zones” taking advantage of the Opportunity Zone Program, a federally approved program meant to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities. The program offers incentives such as capital gains abatement when private businesses invest eligible capital into pre
qualified opportunity zone assets. A sustainable energy enterprise, earlier discussed as a company engaged in CCUS, and further here in hydrogen production, could potentially apply for the tax incentives when pursuing increased hydrogen production in a “Hydrogen Development Zone.” Tax relief could further be encouraged through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, with a directive for tax incentives to foster job creation and development of sustainable energy in Hydrogen Development Zones.
A statutory definition of hydrogen could be included, to include products derived from hydrogen or any other conversion technology that produces hydrogen from a fossil fuel feedstock. Another necessary action would be requiring Texas and its partners, including local governments, industry, and institutions of higher learning, to consider a number of factors in their duties to support the state’s Hydrogen Initiative. Relating to procurement, a state agency that seeks to purchase any item requiring the use of a power source, including but not limited to motor vehicles, material and cargo-handling equipment such as forklifts, harbor craft, generators, power systems, portable floodlights, microgrids, and telecommunications equipment, should include in the request for proposals provisions that allow for the consideration of items that are powered by Texas hydrogen.
The Legislature could also authorize state government, specifically the Office of the Governor and TCEQ, to consider investments in hydrogen fueling infrastructure and the production of sustainable hydrogen as a transportation fuel, and also define transportation electrification to include sustainable hydrogen used as a transportation fuel. Relatively small changes to Texas Emissions Reduction Program alternative fuel requirements could open underutilized funds currently allocated exclusively to compressed natural gas vehicles.xxii Finally, industrial revenue bonds for the purpose of achieving a Texas Hydrogen Development Zone goal could be authorized through the governor and the Legislature, along with permitting counties, municipalities and other political districts to bond for sustainable projects.
Although hydrogen prices have increased in line with other energy sources, due to increases in the natural gas markets, long-term growth projections still anticipate a reduction in hydrogen price as technology continues to advance and scale increases. xxiii Thanks to robust existing hydrogen infrastructure and frenetic commercial activity in the hydrogen value chain at Port Corpus Christi and other cornerstones of the global energy marketplace, Texas could easily become the leading producer of low-cost hydrogen in the nation. With an increased focus from the industry, along with support from state and local government leaders, Texas is in the best possible position to benefit from an increased reliance on this low to zero-emissions fuel.
i https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/five-things-you-might-not-know-about-h2scale ii https://www.beg.utexas.edu/research/areas/hydrogen
iii https://www.jdpower.com/cars/shopping-guides/whats-the-difference-between-gray-blue-and-green-hydrogen iv https://theconversation.com/blue-hydrogen-what-is-it-and-should-it-replace-natural-gas-166053I v https://www.activesustainability.com/sustainable-development/what-is-green-hydrogen-used for/?_adin=02021864894
vii Blue Vs. Green Hydrogen: Which Will The Market Choose? (forbes.com)
viii https://www.houston.org/news/report-houston-region-poised-become-global-clean-hydrogen-hub ix
https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/sustainability/our%20insights/houston%20 as%20the%20epicenter%20of%20a%20global%20clean%20hydrogen%20hub/houston-as-the-epicenter-of-a global-clean-hydrogen-hub-vf.pdf?shouldIndex=false
x https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/energy-utilities-resources/future-energy/green-hydrogen cost.html#:~:text=Through%202030%2C%20hydrogen%20demand%20will,form%20to%20develop%20hydrogen% 20projects.
xi https://www.goldmansachs.com/insights/pages/gs-research/green-hydrogen/report.pdf xii https://www.sempra.com/newsroom/spotlight-articles/green-hydrogen-leadership-opportunity xiii https://www.iea.org/reports/hydrogen
xiv http://www.hydron.com/; https://hydrogen-central.com/tusimple-co-founder-mo-chen-launches-hydron producing-hydrogen-powered-autonomous-ready-freight-trucks/
xvii Big Oil Companies Push Hydrogen as Green Alternative, but Obstacles Remain – WSJ
xviii https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/five-things-you-might-not-know-about-h2scale xix https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/electric-vehicles-energy-problem-hydrogen-may-answer/ xx https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/hydrogen-pipelines
The Texas energy industry faces a significant challenge today. The oil and gas industry is being asked to continue to provide reliable energy for an increasing population as well as for developing and emerging economies who strive to lift themselves out of ‘energy poverty’, while simultaneously meeting growing calls to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. The pressure from financial institutions, in concert with federal regulatory agencies, means that the state must incentivize large-scale deployment of carbon capture technology.
It is a recognized fact that energy demand has and will continue to grow. Specifically, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects a close to 50% increase in world energy use by 2050.i The EIA projects that total volumes of fossil fuels consumed in the United States will increase by 10% between now and 2050 and that 74% of America’s energy will still come from fossil fuels in 2050. Further, the EIA projects that by 2050 fossil fuels will still supply 69% of the world’s energy. As demand for fossil fuel energy continues to rise around the world, well-funded groups, financial institutions and regulatory agencies are making significant efforts to drastically reduce or even eliminate fossil fuels in an attempt to solve the carbon emissions issue. The result of such a course of action would undermine efforts to expand energy supply, increase energy poverty and make the current energy shortages around the world look miniscule in comparison.
The fossil fuels industry is faced with the dual problems of meeting increasing fossil fuels energy demand while also dealing with increased market – and – regulatory pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To address these problems, new technology and innovation is being advanced in the industry. One of these processes, Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) has been billed as part of a viable solution to achieve carbon neutrality without undermining the advancements of mankind’s quality of life to which the abundance and use of fossil fuels have dramatically contributed over the last 150 years.
However, CCUS is a costly and complex process. For Texas to take advantage of the opportunity CCUS provides, Texas has a unique opportunity to achieve – continued robust production of energy, but with lowered carbon emissions – with the addition of critical incentives.
What is “CCUS”?
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (“CCUS”) is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions produced from industrial sources to be used to increase hydrocarbon recovery, utilized for various industrial applications, or to be stored underground. Dedicated carbon storage is possible through the process of deep injection into secure geological formations, some of which may be depleted crude oil and/or natural gas reservoirs, brine-filled aquifers or mineralized basalt formations.ii Many projects in the United States and around the world have been developed, as industry has seen CCUS as a way to reduce
emissions while increasing production to meet demand.
The Opportunity for Texas
For CCUS, the existence of reservoirs and available pore space in Texas play a key role in their feasibility. Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a case study1 on possible industry efforts to achieve significant CO2 reduction and removal. The study focuses on the idea of “net-zero industrial hubs” as a pathway to reducing emissions, focusing on Texas’ potential, particularly regarding storing carbon when it comes to CCUS:
Texas is also home to an important natural resource required for a net-zero industrial hub: subsurface pore volume for CO2 storage. The combined onshore and offshore saline formation capacity along the Gulf Coast alone is estimated above 1 trillion tons capacity—more than 10,000 times the annual emissions of Houston—and the Gulf of Mexico pore-volume storage resources
is the largest in the United States.iii
Due to its storage resources available, and current infrastructure already in place, Texas stands to play a significant role in the development and advancement of CCUS.
Because CCUS is complex and still emerging as an industry, it requires significant integration across technical and legal disciplines as well as large capital investment for companies during the development, construction and operation phases. Costs for CCUS projects are estimated to cost approximately $400 million per 1 million tons per annum., captured and stored, divided among the cost of capture, transportation, and storage. This significant cost requires some type of financial incentive for companies looking to enter the CCUS industry, particularly as the regulatory, legal, and economic frameworks are still being
developed or need clarification both on a federal and state level. A GAO report on CCUS from December 2021 cites several barriers to CCUS development on the economic level, including viability risks of the host industrial emission point source, volatility in the fossil fuel commodities market, high expected project costs, and uncertainty within carbon markets
and tax incentives, making it difficult to estimate economic viability.iv
In the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s report2 on CCUS in Clean Energy Transitions, the agency notes that several policy developments will be necessary to support this new industry:
A range of policy instruments are at policy makers’ disposal to support the establishment of a market for CCUS and address the investment challenges. In practice, a mix of measures is likely to be needed. These measures include direct capital grants, tax credits, carbon pricing mechanisms, operational subsidies, regulatory requirements and public procurement of low-carbon
products from CCUS-equipped plants. Continuous support for innovation is also needed to drive down costs, and develop and commercialize new technologies.v
Establishing sufficient incentives, on a federal and state level, could provide not only financial support but also certainty in pursuing new CCUS projects. CCUS is equivalent to making existing industrial activities carbon-free, whether for electric power, transportation fuels, petrochemicals, fertilizers, ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen. These existing sectors are large employers, particularly with well-educated, technical workforces in both the
corporate and field levels.
At the federal level, the tax credit for carbon dioxide sequestration (referred to by its Internal Revenue Code section, “45Q”) is a credit based on metric tons of carbon captured and sequestered when that carbon would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere. The captured carbon must be disposed of in “secure geological storage” to be credited.vi The credit has been expanded several times since its passage and remains a major incentive on the federal level for carbon capture projects.
Recent federal legislation increasing incentives will make an impact on CCUS funding but will not completely close the gap for companies seeking to enter the new industry. New federal regulation increases the 45Q credit to $85 per ton from $50 per ton for captured and stored carbon, $60 per ton for beneficial use of captured carbon emissions, and $60 per ton for carbon stored in oil and gas fields.vii The bill also increases credits for direct air capture projects, from $50 per ton of carbon captured to $180 per ton for carbon stored in geological formations, $130 per ton for utilization projects, and $130 per ton for storage in oil and gas fields. However, the cost of the technology, compounded with current inflation rates that will significantly impact the installed costs of CCUS infrastructure, make the current 45Q levels inadequate to encourage many companies to engage in new CCUS projects.viii Accordingly, industry seeking to adapt and deploy CCUS technologies should be able to turn to state-level programs to supplement and induce CCUS projects.
1. Tax Credit for Clean Energy
The Legislature created a tax credit for clean energy projects in 2013, aimed at coal projects. Though now expired, the statute provides a good framework to build upon for the clean energy project that is CCUS. The statute provided a tax credit equal to the lesser of 10% of capital costs of the projects or $100 million, and was limited to three projects, to be carried forward for no more than 20 consecutive years. The statute had a requirement that the project must sequester at least 70% of the carbon dioxide resulting from the project. In recent CCUS projects, the capture rate can vary depending on the type of CO2 facility, from 60% up to 85%. With input from industry, designating a required capture rate could work to limit the amount of eligible projects or applying categories of required capture rates with different levels of incentives, would help in capping the financial expense to the state while still supporting major CCUS projects.
2. “Prop 2” Pollution Control
Another potential for tax relief falls under the Tax Relief for Pollution Control Property Program, called “Prop 2”, which provides tax relief for facilities using certain property or equipment for pollution control. The TCEQ program offers tax relief for pollution control property or facilities that are used to “meet or exceed laws, rules, or regulations adopted by any environmental protection agency of the United States, Texas, or a political subdivision of Texas, for the prevention, monitoring, control, or reduction of air, water, or land pollution.”xiii
To receive the tax exemption, applicants must request a use determination by TCEQ. Upon receiving a positive use determination, applicants then apply to their local property tax appraisal district for the property tax exemption.ix Currently, statute provides that property used to capture carbon dioxide is eligible for the tax credit but includes a limiting factor that the property is eligible if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), permitting authority, or other entity adopts rule or regulation regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.x
Rather than rely on various regulations subject to change, the state should remove the limiting factor to ensure that CCUS projects are eligible for the credit. Statute should also provide for a minimum amount of property tax relief rather than relying entirely on a determination by local appraisers with the floor increasing depending on the scale of the project. In addition, because the tax exemption is a constitutional provision, a constitutional amendment will also be required in order to amend the tax relief provision. If CCUS is considered a pollution control project or equipment, Prop 2 could provide another opportunity for tax relief when it comes to the cost of CCUS.
The Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) offers financial incentives to eligible businesses and others for the reduction of emissions from vehicles and equipment. Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) administers the program, funded by revenues from fees and surcharges relating to certain off-road equipment and on-road vehicles. TERP is intended to help Texas meet the goals of reduced pollution and improved air quality.
With amendment, CCUS could be considered eligible for several current grant programs in TERP, such as the New Technology Implementation Grant Program (NTIG) or the Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants (ERIG). Under the NTIG Program, there are several categories where CCUS could be applied, and should be included. “Advanced Clean Energy Projects” include projects that involve electricity generation through fuels such as coal or biomass, natural gas and use new technologies to reduce certain emissions from stationary sources. With the inclusion of natural gas in the category and a required reduction of carbon dioxide, a CCUS project should be considered eligible. Eligible projects under the “New Technology – Stationary Sources” category are projects that reduce emissions of regulated pollutants from stationary sources, including pollutants subject to TCEQ permitting. Carbon dioxide, as one of the major greenhouse gases, is currently permitted through TCEQ. Through either a new facility or the retrofit of an already existing facility, CCUS is a new technology that could be applied here and should be specifically included. “New Technology – Oil and Gas Projects” is another area CCUS may be applicable, as it is aimed at reduction of emissions from upstream and midstream oil and gas activities. The Emissions Reduction Incentive Grant Program (ERIG), providing grants for the upgrading or replacing of certain equipment to reduce emissions, may be another avenue for CCUS incentives. Establishing the avenue for TERP funding to apply to CCUS can help TCEQ and the state achieve the goal of reduced emissions while also allowing the state to continue its robust energy production.
4. Purchasing Preferences
There are several provisions dealing with procurement that might aid in incentivizing the purchase of products developed from captured carbon, or other low carbon processes, like hydrogen. For example, for contracts performed in nonattainment areas, the comptroller and state agencies may give preference to goods or services of a vendor that meets or exceeds environmental standards relating to air quality, when the cost would not exceed 105 percent of the cost of another vendor.xi Another provision gives a preference for some recycled, remanufactured, or environmentally sensitive products when certain factors allow,
such as price, quantity and quality.xii Amending either of these provisions, or creating a new provision, pertaining to products produced through low carbon efforts, could help incentive the market for low carbon products.
Limits on Incentives
To make CCUS incentives feasible on a state level, limiting factors are necessary, especially as the industry is developing in the state. Various metrics could apply to limit the total funds expended by the state, such as limits based on percentage of carbon captured or the size of the project. Pictured below are estimated target percentages of carbon captured per type of processing plant. As an example, the state could target plants capturing 90%- 95% of carbon emitted.
In addition to applying limits based on the size of the project or the amount of carbon captured, projects in non-attainment areas could be a priority. Non-attainment areas are those that do not currently meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Incentives Around the Country
Several other states have created incentives meant to encourage a reduction in carbon emissions, some related directly to CCUS projects, and others related to and encompassing CCUS through enhanced oil recovery projects (EOR). Below is a summary of the tax incentives, bond authority, and eminent domain powers that have been enacted in other states to help support and develop CCUS. While bond amounts in each state are unknown, similar ideas could serve as a framework to be tailored to Texas. Importantly, this white paper does not cover other states’ initiatives concerning other elements of CCUS, namely pore space ownership and long-term liability ownership. These topics are summarized by CNC white papers elsewhere, whose conclusions with those offered herein are intended to advocate for comprehensive policy.
In 2007, Illinois authorized the Illinois Finance Authority to issue bonds to finance the development and construction of coal-fired plants with carbon capture projects. Utilities in the state were also authorized to charge a fee to customers for deposit to the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund and Coal Technology Development Assistance Fund. Per the statute, the funds are to support the capture of emissions from coal-fired plants and the development of further capture and sequestration of carbon emissions.
California has a broad system regulating emissions, which incentivize CCUS projects as means in which to meet benchmark emissions standards in the state. California also provides an enhanced oil recovery tax credit that is similar to the federal enhanced oil recovery credit. In California, the credit is equal to 5 percent of the qualified enhanced oil recovery costs for qualified oil recovery projects within the state. However, this credit does not apply to taxpayers that are retailers of oil or natural gas or refiners of crude oil if daily refinery output exceeds 50,000 barrels.
Kansas allows a five-year exemption from property taxes for property used for carbon dioxide capture, sequestration or utilization, and any electric generation unit used to capture and sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Kansas also allows for accelerated depreciation on CCUS machinery and equipment. There are also deductions from adjusted gross income available, starting with 55 percent of the amortizable cost down to 5 percent in following years for a 10-year period.
Louisiana provides a Sales and Use tax exemption for anthropogenic carbon dioxide used in a tertiary recovery project, once approved by their Office of Conservation in the Department of Natural Resources. The exemption does not specifically require geologic sequestration to qualify. The state also allows a 50 percent reduction on severance tax for the production of crude oil from a tertiary recovery project using anthropogenic carbon dioxide.
5. North Dakota
North Dakota classifies CO2 pipelines as common carrier, thereby granting them the right of eminent domain. The state also provides an exemption from their Sales and Use tax, a rate of 5 percent, for all gross receipts from the sale of carbon dioxide used for enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas. Another exemption from the Sales and Use tax is allowed for gross receipts from sales of tangible personal property used to build or expand a system used for carbon dioxide storage, transportation, or for use in enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas. The property must be incorporated into a new system rather than be used to replace an existing system, although there are exceptions for expansion purposes.
North Dakota also provides a property tax exemption for pipelines and related equipment for the transportation or storage of carbon dioxide for use in enhanced recovery or geologic storage, during construction and the following ten years.
An ad valorem tax exemption applies to coal conversion facilities and any carbon dioxide capture system located there, plus any equipment directly used for geologic storage of carbon dioxide or enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas classified as personal property. The exemption does not apply to tangible personal property incorporated as a component part of a carbon dioxide pipeline, but this restriction does not affect eligibility of such a pipeline for the carbon dioxide pipeline exemption.
Finally, carbon dioxide capture credits are available for coal conversion facilities that capture 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions during a certain period. The owner of such a facility may take from a 20 percent reduction of the North Dakota privilege tax, a tax levied on operators of coal conversion facilities, up to a maximum of a 50 percent reduction when 80 percent or more of carbon dioxide emissions are captured. The tax reduction is available for ten years from the date of the first capture or ten years from the date the facility is eligible for the tax credit. xiii
Texas has the opportunity to lead the way in showing that the fossil fuel industry is ready to continue to provide affordable energy, electricity, and a vast array of products for the benefit of consumers while still improving our environment through lower carbon emissions. Consumers will continue to need fossil fuels for electricity, fuels, and products, but their production and use can become carbon neutral through CCUS. CCUS can be the answer to meeting government-mandated reductions in emissions, without harming the vital fossil fuel industry.
On both the federal and state level, renewable energy has benefitted from substantial subsidies.xiv As Texas has focused on incentivizing wind and solar energy in part to help reduce emissions, a new focus on enabling the oil and gas industry to utilize CCUS to reduce emissions will achieve similar goals, while still affording the state the ability to produce reliable, affordable energy. In addition, Texas’ existing workforce will be protected while also new technical jobs will be created. With a dedicated focus, the Texas energy industry stands to be the model toward reliable and secure energy production, and carbon neutrality,
iii Columbia | SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy | Evaluating Net-Zero Industrial Hubs in the United States:A Case Study of Houston
viii https://www.catf.us/2022/06/inflation-creates-new-urgency-for-passage-of-45q-enhancements/#:~:text=In%20the%20most%20recent%20draft,for%20inflation%20beginning%20in%202 027.
x Tex. Tax Code § 11.31
xi Tex. Govt. Code Tit.10, Ch. 2155.451
xii Tex. Govt. Code Tit. 10, Ch. 2155.455
xiii FTI Orrick USEA CCUS Report.pdf