Carbon Capture Has To Get As Big As Oil Industry In Less Than 30 Years

At-a-Glance:

The nascent industry that captures and stores carbon dioxide has to scale to the size of the oil industry much faster than oil did, according to the head of the Global CCS Institute. To learn more, read  Carbon Capture Has To Get As Big As Oil Industry In Less Than 30 Years.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The oil industry moves about 5 gigatons of oil and gas per year. To meet climate goals, the world has to remove at least that weight of carbon dioxide – 5 to 10 gigatons – from the atmosphere each year.
  • Hard to decarbonize sectors – steel, chemicals, cement, fertilizers, and plastics – will generally need carbon capture and storage to address their emissions.
  • The Global CCS Institute is an international think tank seeking to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage. It knows of 26 operating CCS facilities and 40 more that are either in development or suspended.
  • If all 66 facilities were operational, they would collectively capture and store 102 megatons of carbon dioxide each year. Capacity may have to increase 100-fold by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Accelerating decarbonization efforts is the subject of discussions, research and multiple organizational goals. Carbon capture technology is gaining interest in the energy sector around the world as industries seek innovation, traction and affordability.

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Can the market save the planet? FedEx is the latest brand-name firm to say it’s trying.

At-a-Glance:

Amazon, Walmart, General Motors, and now FedEx. The giant delivery company joined more than 50 other major corporations when it announced on March 3 that it too aims to be carbon-neutral by 2040 – an effort to curb climate change. Executives say that a gathering cultural change is fueled by companies responding not only to shareholders but also to the growing urgency of climate change and the concerns of their own employees and customers. To learn more, read “Can the market save the planet? FedEx is the latest brand-name firm to say it’s trying.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • FedEx pledged an initial investment of $2 billion to start electrifying its massive fleet of more than 180,000 vehicles and $100 million for a new Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture.
  • Some of the other companies promising to meet the 2040 carbon-neutral goal and inspire other firms to do the same have signed on to an initiative called the Climate Pledge. These companies include IBM, Microsoft, Unilever, Johnson Controls, Coca-Cola, Uber, and Best Buy.
  • Action by big utilities, refiners, and concrete manufacturers are also essential if countries are going to meet their own economy-wide goals.
  • FedEx’s pledge to Yale is part of an effort to search for novel ways to remove and store more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using nature.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Multiple organizations, utilities and government agencies are setting ambitious clean energy goals and the need to reduce carbon emissions is real. In 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global emissions would need to reach net-zero (or carbon-neutral) by 2050 to prevent severe climate change impacts. Electricity is a major contributor—electricity generation was responsible for approximately 33% of total CO2 emissions in the U.S. in 2018.

 

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This Company Helps Roughnecks Find Renewable Energy Jobs

At-a-Glance:

Workrise makes its money by finding jobs for skilled laborers, handling their payroll and benefits and taking its cut from employers. The company works with Exxon Mobil Corp., General Electric Co. and First Solar Inc., among others. It sent more than four times as many people into renewable energy last year compared with 2019, placing about 4,500 skilled workers into green jobs like building solar farms or fixing lightning-damaged wind turbines. That was almost a third of all its workers in 2020. To learn more, read This Company Helps Roughnecks Find Renewable Energy Jobs.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • When cold weather and grid failures left millions of Texans shivering in the dark without power the week of Valentine’s Day, both oil companies and clean-power plants tapped Workrise for help.
    • The company dispatched workers to keep drilling sites safe and operational, turning off wells and wrapping lines with insulation.
  • The company sees job training as a big part of the future of its business. It provided training for about 5% of its 8,000 workers in 2019, but in 2020 it trained 15% of its 15,000 workers.
  • Workrise also wants to take advantage of opportunities to send workers to plug methane-leaking wells and build carbon capture and underground storage. The company has already submitted some bids to provide workers to stop up abandoned wells, including on a project in North Dakota.

Path to 100% Perspective:

A variety of technologies and fuels will have a role to play along the Path to 100%. Some technologies commonly used today will see a decreased role as decarbonization becomes a priority. A decarbonized grid will require an electricity mix powered by carbon-free or carbon neutral sources, as well as technologies that can balance the seasonal and daily changes in consumption, and weather variability, of key renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This energy transition will require an agile workforce and workforce development.

 

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DOE announces $160m for hydrogen production, transport, storage and utilisation

At-a-Glance:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has announced plans to make $160m in federal funding available to help develop technologies for the production, transport, storage and utilisation of fossil-based hydrogen. To learn more, read DOE announces $160m for hydrogen production, transport, storage and utilisation.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • In announcing these funds, DOE said its efforts will help recalibrate the nation’s vast fossil-fuel and power infrastructure for decarbonized energy and commodity production.
  • This funding opportunity will be used to solicit applications for research and development in areas of interest that align with the following seven program areas:
    • Net-zero or negative carbon hydrogen production from modular gasification and co-gasification of mixed wastes, biomass, and traditional feedstocks
    • Solid oxide electrolysis cell technology (SOEC) development
    • Carbon capture
    • Advanced turbines
    • Natural gas-based hydrogen production
    • Hydrogen pipeline infrastructure
    • Subsurface hydrogen storage

Path to 100% Perspective:

Renewable fuels, like hydrogen, will play a significant role in transitioning to a 100% renewable energy power system, especially as the market for these fuels continues to grow in the transportation and industrial sectors. Flexible gas power plants can generate electricity from hydrogen produced by Power-to-X facilities out of renewable electricity and CO2 captured from air. Investing in research and development around hydrogen is a strategic move that will advance key technologies and knowledge needed to optimize flexible gas power generation.

 

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Without Carbon Capture And Storage, The World Can’t Meet Its Climate Target

At-a-Glance:

When the global community was focused on the U.S. presidential election last fall, a huge story was developing in Norway: Its parliament was preparing to finance “the greatest” carbon capture project in the world that would cut emissions and jumpstart the technology. It would first be implemented at a cement factory. It is the type of thinking that Prince Charles of Wales said is critical if the international community is to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement and to keep temperatures in check. To learn more, read “Without Carbon Capture And Storage, The World Can’t Meet Its Climate Target.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Prince Charles specifically endorsed Net Power, which is working with Toshiba Corporation to burn natural gas in oxygen to create pure CO2 – much of which is captured, heated and used to create electricity. The remaining CO2 is captured and either sequestered underground or used to enhance oil recovery.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration is feasible, but expensive. However, a tax credit is now given to coal, natural gas and oil companies that can capture or reuse their CO2 releases. Known as Q45, it gives a credit of $50 per ton for CO2 that is buried and $35 per ton for CO2 that is re-utilized.
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. wants to catapult the concept further by using carbonated fuel cells that concentrate and capture the CO2 from power plants, while substantially reducing costs. 
  • Net Power’s Bill Brown says that instead of choosing specific fuels, the United States needs to choose a future – one that is set on becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Free-market forces are pushing companies, large and small, to address climate change. The innovative technologies being developed and deployed by companies like Net Power, Exxon, and Norway’s Gassnova will go a long way to make carbon capture and storage both affordable and accessible for the entire world. While much more will need to be accomplished before achieving a 100% renewable energy future, these efforts are charting a productive course to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon releases by 2050.

 

 

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The Future Of Carbon Capture Is In The Air

At-a-Glance 

While renewable energy is now widely accepted as the cheapest form of electricity generation, energy demand growth, government growth requirements and the need for a responsible transition mean fossil fuels will still have a role. But for that to work with climate goals, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology must be mainstreamed. In Iceland, Climeworks is showing how direct air capture/storage (DAC) could change the game. To learn more, read “The Future Of Carbon Capture Is In The Air.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • Climeworks new plant, named Orca, will combine Swiss-based Climeworks’ direct air capture technology with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Iceland’s Carbfix and the plant should be online in spring 2021. 
  • What makes Climeworks use of DAC so interesting is that it doesn’t just work in removing emissions associated specifically with power generation, but can capture emissions directly from the air. This is the company’s largest plant so far, intended to capture around 4,000 tons of CO2 per year.
  • There has been significant movement in the CCS market recently. In the UK, as part of its recently announced green infrastructure plans, the government has promised £1 billion to set up four industrial clusters for CCS. 
  • The Norwegian government is working with Equinor, Shell and Total on a project intended to standardize and scale carbon capture, transportation and storage in Europe. The Northern Lights Project is expected to capture CO2 from industry in the Oslo-fjord region, following which the carbon will be liquefied and shipped to an onshore terminal on the Norwegian west coast and then taken out to the North Sea for long term subsea storage.
  • In Canada, Carbon Engineering says its technology can be scaled up to remove up to 1 million tons of CO2 from the air annually, with a large-scale plant in development with Occidental Petroleum with a completion date reported to be 2026. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Capturing carbon dioxide from the air, utilizing synthesis to combine these into hydrocarbons suitable for synthetic renewable fuels offers substantial opportunities to take valuable steps towards carbon neutral communities. These renewable fuels could be used in transportation, energy storage and energy distribution which improves power system sustainability, reliability and flexibility.

 

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Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra

At-a-Glance:

Becoming carbon neutral — also known as climate-neutral or net zero — is now a legal requirement in some countries, while European authorities are adopting legislation to become the first net zero continent. Even oil companies are getting in on the act. Buildings, airlines and events have also made the pledge, while investments groups managing almost $5 trillion of assets have committed to having carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050.To learn more, read Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is carbon neutral? It means cutting emissions to the very limit and compensating for what can’t be eliminated.
  • What are carbon offset credits? Developed by the United Nations and non-profit groups, these let the buyers emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas, which is offset by using the money raised to fund carbon-reduction projects such as reforestation.
  • Who’s trying to be carbon neutral? Dozens of countries have committed to go net zero, or at least outperform carbon-reduction targets set out in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • What’s driving this? CO2 pollution is still rising — 2019 was another record — and is unlikely to peak before 2040, driven by growing use of fossil fuels, says the International Energy Agency.
  • How will the goals be reached? To get anywhere close to net zero by 2050, the world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much will ride on technologies that on the grand scale required are as yet unproven, including carbon capture, using hydrogen as fuel and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Understanding the evolving terminology is useful, but embracing a plan that is possible, practical and affordable will combine knowledge with measurable results. As organizations add renewable energy to their net zero goals, it is important to develop a power system with flexibility, reliability and sustainability in mind. Renewable energy can actually generate renewable fuels that can be used to create a sustainable grid with a path to faster decarbonization.

 

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This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg