ExxonMobil is hoping to get support from the US government for the development of a carbon capture hub in Houston. The hub is estimated to cost around $100 billion and it needs government policy changes and investment to quickly start building the project.
Erik Oswald, vice president of strategy development and advocacy for Exxon carbon capture and clean technologies initiative called Low Carbon Solutions, was in Washington last week to meet with members of the Biden administration and congressional offices about the project.
Last month, major Exxon news was the announcement of a proposal for the installation of carbon capture and storage infrastructure along the Houston Ship Channel. It is home to various industrial facilities like gas-fired power plants, refineries, and chemical manufacturing operations. That infrastructure would capture the emissions of those facilities and store them deep under the sea, tens of miles off the Gulf Coast.
The company has around 50 industrial facilities from the area on board with the project. The proposed Houston hub is expected to accomplish 50 million tons of CO2 capture and storage per year by 2030 and 100 million t/yr by 2040.
As massive investment is needed for the infrastructure to begin, Exxon has estimated that $10 billion in public funding would help initially to kickstart the project. The company also says that the $50 incentive tax credit for carbon captured and stored would need to double and the deadline developers can claim it should increase from 12 to 30 years.
The government would also need to grant access for the proposed injection of the CO2 under federal waters. Exxon is also a supporter of a market price on carbon as it would offer companies the stability to make the types of investments that would lead to a CCS hub in Houston and other industrial centers.
Arguments Over Houston Carbon Capture Hub
The project is getting some criticism from environmental groups who claim that laying off fossil fuels quickly enough to meet the Paris Agreement goal needs to be a priority before investing in CCS. According to environmentalists, carbon capture technologies require a lot of public and private funds to be deployed and cannot be scaled quickly enough to make a real cut in emissions.
Despite years of research and development, the US has captured 13 million of CO2 in 2019, which is around 0.2% of total emissions that year. With the Houston CCS hub reaching full capacity in 2040, 2% of current US CO2 emissions would be sequestered.
Exxon’s push for the project is founded on bringing more jobs in the area and deploying CCS as a more cost-effective solution than other options for the decarbonization of heavy industries. The company also claims that the carbon capture hub could ultimately help support the production of hydrogen that would be a critical low-carbon fuel for the economy in the future.
The Houston CCS hub is a big step towards tackling rising global emissions. It still represents a small fraction of what needs to be sequestered to make a real difference, but it offers potential to encourage scalability of CCS and development of other low-carbon technologies.