As the Biden administration and Congress focus on clean energy technologies with proposals for hydrogen demonstration projects and legislation to overhaul the energy tax code released April 21 by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, (D-Ore), ExxonMobil has proposed use of an old technology—carbon capture and storage—with plans to invest $100 billion in a scaled up CO2 storage megaproject in Texas.
ExxonMobil on April 19 proposed establishing an Innovation Zone along the Houston Ship Channel and the surrounding industrial area to capture emissions from petrochemical, manufacturing and electricity generation plants there and pipe them into natural geological formations below the Gulf of Mexico sea floor for storage.
The Democrats' bill, meanwhile, repeals tax credits for fossil fuels.
The energy firm's huge project would cost a minimum of $100 billion and require financial support from industry and government, says Joe Blommaert, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, a new business established Feb. 1 to commercialize and deploy emission reduction technologies. Its initial focus is carbon capture, but with plans also for more hydrogen production to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% at its global production facilities by 2030.
The parent company for three years has assessed the concept of multi-user “hubs” in industrial areas near possible storage sites such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs for storing emissions.
Blommaert says the concept has the potential to effectively decarbonize one of the country’s largest sources of emissions.
In a collaboration with carbonate fuel cell developer FuelCell Energy and a direct-air-capture firm called Global Thermostat, ExxonMobil says it is developing a new generation of carbon capture technology that, instead of drawing power, creates it.
Early projections indicate the Houston project could capture and store about 50 million metric tons of CO2 annually by 2030 and 100 million metric tons by 2040. The US Dept. of Energy estimates that storage capacity along the Gulf Coast is enough to hold 500 billion metric tons of CO2.
To succeed, the project would also require regulatory and legal frameworks that support investments and innovation, Blommaert says.
“Establishing a market price for carbon will play an important part by providing the needed clarity and stability required to drive investment,” he notes. Incentives and policies that allow carbon capture and storage to receive direct investments also are needed, Blommaert says.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, during a meeting with labor leaders on April 19, said the administration is proposing 15 decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects and 10 carbon capture retrofit demonstration projects for large steel, cement and chemical plants.
Project location and other details have not been released, but in the infrastructure plan, the administration said that by pairing hydrogen projects located in distressed communities with a new production tax credit, “we can spur capital-project retrofits and installations that bolster and decarbonize our industry.”
The plan also supports large-scale carbon sequestration efforts that are based on the best science but also have community support.
Biden’s plan reforms and expands tax credits turning them into direct payments, which it claims make it and easier for hard-to-decarbonize industrial applications such as direct-air capture, and retrofits of existing power plants.
In an April 21 opinion, plumbers'' union General President Mark McManus said "while some continue to promote the idea that Americans must choose between climate or jobs, one thing is clear: the energy transition that includes hydrogen means job security for workers and a cleaner future for America."