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Shell, others join coalition supporting Houston carbon capture hub

January 20, 2022

Shell, Air Liquide and BASF have joined a coalition of energy companies supporting Exxon Mobil’s proposal to build a $100 billion carbon capture and storage hub in Houston. 

The three companies join Calpine, Chevron, Dow, Exxon, INEOS, Linde, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, NRG Energy, Phillips 66 and Valero. The coalition of 14 companies are evaluating and advancing plans for a large-scale carbon capture hub that would capture and store up to 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from Houston-area industrial plants by 2030, and up to 100 million metric tons by 2040. 

“Large-scale carbon capture and storage in the Houston region will be a cornerstone for the world’s energy transition, and these companies’ efforts are crucial toward advancing CCS development to achieve broad scale commercial impact,” said Charles McConnell, director of University of Houston’s Center for Carbon Management in Energy and former assistant secretary at the Energy Department. “As the energy capital of the world, Houston has the expertise and leadership — including industry, academia and policymakers — to realize a low carbon, reliable and affordable energy future.”

The growing coalition is more evidence of the oil industry’s growing interest in carbon capture and storage, an expensive, decades-old technology that has yet to be commercialized but promises to keep fossil fuels viable in a lower-carbon future. Exxon in April proposed plans for the so-called Houston CCS Innovation Zone, billed as the biggest carbon capture and sequestration project in the world that would store carbon dioxide under the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas oil giant said the carbon capture hub would require collaboration between governments, academics and private industry to bring to fruition. 

Carbon capture and storage technology extracts carbon dioxide from the air or from industrial facilities and stores it in deep underground geologic formations, lowering companies’ carbon footprint. Several oil giants are investing heavily in carbon capture and storage. Exxon last year said it plans to invest more than $15 billion by 2027 to lower its emissions, with a focus on accelerating carbon capture technology. Houston-based Occidental Petroleum has a massive carbon capture project in the Permian Basin under construction to reinvent itself as a carbon capture and storage company.The coalition supporting the Houston carbon capture hub held a series of workshops at the University of Houston during the World Petroleum Congress in December, to discuss how to collaborate and realize the project. The project has support from local political and economic leaders, including from Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Harris County Commissioners’ Court, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Center for Houston’s Future. 

The Energy Department estimates the U.S. Gulf Coast could store about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to more than 130 years of industrial and power generation emissions in the United States, based on 2018 data.

The International Energy Agency projects that carbon capture and storage could mitigate up to 15 percent of global emissions by 2040, and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates global decarbonization efforts could be twice as costly without the technology.   

“Carbon capture and storage is not a single technology, but rather a series of technologies and scientific breakthroughs that work in concert to achieve a profound outcome, one that will play a significant role in the future of energy and our planet,” said Gretchen Watkins, U.S. President at Shell. “In that spirit, it’s fitting this consortium combines CCS blueprints and ambitions to crystalize Houston’s reputation as the energy capital of the world while contributing to local and U.S. plans to help achieve net-zero emissions.”

By Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle