University of Texas at Austin
PICTURE: The energy infrastructure along the Gulf Coast offers opportunities to capture and transport CO2 for storage. View More Credit: Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress.
According to a study led by the University of Texas at Austin, the conditions are in place for a new carbon storage economy along the Gulf Coast, with the region offering ample opportunities to capture and store carbon and with recent state and federal incentives adding a push to get started.
Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS, is a technology that keeps CO2 out of the atmosphere by capturing emissions and storing them deep underground. It can help fight climate change by lowering industrial emissions now while developing renewable energy sources, said Tip Meckel, a senior researcher at the Gulf Coast Carbon Center, a research group at the UT Bureau of Economic Geology, has been using CCS for the past 20 years Years.
“This is a viable way to reduce emissions in the short term,” said Meckel. “It is feasible and has a reasonable economic structure that can support, maintain and create jobs.”
The study, published in Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, provides a comprehensive overview of policy incentives for CCS and how Texas and Louisiana’s high industrial density and unique offshore geology make the region a particularly good place for building a carbon storage economy.
The issues covered in the paper are particularly relevant given the recent moves Texas has taken to put carbon storage under a regulatory framework similar to that of oil and gas. In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed Law HB 1284, which gave the Texas Railroad Commission the same regulatory powers over CO2 injection wells as it did over oil and gas wells. In May, the Texas General Land Office announced that it would accept lease proposals for carbon storage on state land off the coast of Jefferson County. Any royalties or income related to storage goes to the Texas Permanent School Fund, as is the case with oil and gas activities.
In the past, oil and gas companies mainly used carbon storage and capture for improved oil recovery, which enables companies to extract more oil from depleted reservoirs by pumping in CO2. The improved oil production has been used for decades and has spawned an existing network of pipelines to transport CO2 along the Gulf Coast. The two existing CO2 capture systems in Texas were also built with these measures in mind.
The study shows, however, that falling oil and gas prices and rising federal tax credits, which offset the tax liability of industries to varying degrees depending on the CO2 storage, make carbon storage more attractive for its own sake.
“We used to have only one way: improved oil production,” said former Deputy Energy Secretary Charles McConnell, who is now Executive Director of Carbon Management at the University of Houston and was not involved in the study. “We are now in a different place. Storage in and of itself can now be profitable. “
The paper describes how existing CO2 infrastructure could be used and expanded to promote carbon storage outside of enhanced oil production – with researchers highlighting the subterranean geology off the Gulf Coast as a suitable location for permanent CO2 storage.
The researchers also note that state land in Texas extended up to 10.35 miles offshore instead of the usual 5.45 miles, due to a law that went into effect when Texas was a sovereign nation. The historical act now simplifies ownership and licensing issues.
While the Gulf Coast geology and infrastructure make a winning combination in promoting a carbon storage economy, another important fact, according to the study, is simply the amount of CO2 the region is producing. Texas has the highest emissions of any state. Louisiana is second.
The capture and storage offers a way to stop some of these emissions right at the source, said Meckel. In this way, the technology can help flatten CO2 emissions as lower carbon energy alternatives mature in the marketplace.
“Advancing the capture and storage of CO2 is something we can do now,” said Meckel. “To take a big bite [the carbon] Profile, you have to get started now. “
The Ministry of Energy funded the research. The co-authors of the paper are all part of the Gulf Coast Carbon Center. They are Research Associate Alex Bump, Study Director Susan Hovorka, and Program Manager Ramón H. Treviño.
The Bureau of Economic Geology is a research unit of the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.