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Friday, November 15, 2013

CCUS networks beginning to take shape – outside the US

While myopic coal-state lawmakers in the US question the commercial viability of carbon capture and storage technology, the rest of the fact-based world moves on to deploy the technology and will reap the jobs and industrial development that accompany it.

This article describes the Middle East's first commercial scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) project, scheduled to come online in 2016 and store up to 800,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.  The United Arab Emirates project will use a 50 km-long pipeline to connect a steel plant with oil fields where the CO2 will be used to enhance oil recovery. It’s intended to be the first phase of an "industrial-scale CCUS network" in the UAR.

The utilization of captured CO2 – selling it to enhance oil production - is one way to create a revenue stream that offsets some of the currently high costs of the technology.  In one Canadian province, for example, wider deployment of CCS technology for EOR has been estimated to have the potential to store 30 to 40 megatonnes of CO2 per year and add over $1.5 billion annually in EOR revenues.  

What about the US?

According to this report from the Global CCS Institute, using CO2 for EOR in North America has been going on for more than 40 years, and was responsible for about 5% of U.S. oil production in 2006.  The US Department of Energy has estimated that currently, over 48 million tonnes per year of CO2 are used for EOR. About 80 per cent of that comes from naturally occurring geologic sources.  Only 20 per cent is captured from emissions from coal-to-natural gas, ammonia production, and natural gas separation and processing operations. DOE has also estimated that 45 billion barrels of additional domestic EOR production is economically recoverable. The production would require about 12.5 billion tonnes of CO2.

The domestic oil industry should be incentivized with smart policies to leave naturally-occurring CO2 deposits in the ground, and to meet their current needs – and the requirements of producing those additional 45 billion barrels of oil – from CCS.

Using captured CO2 for EOR is likely to be the cutting edge of how initial large scale CCS systems will be deployed. It will help to drive costs down further and enable wider deployment of a technology that is arguably vital if we are to save the planet - and our children - from the most disastrous effects of warming.

When and where will we see CCUS/CCS networks proposed in the US (besides the one PA proposed four years ago)?

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