Carbon Capture and Storage: A Low-Carbon Solution to Economy-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions
What is Carbon Capture?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources and geologically store them safely and securely deep underground in well-characterized and extensively regulated geologic formations. CCS technologies include: (1) capturing CO2 from large emissions sources, called point-source capture; and (2) removing them from the atmosphere, called direct air capture.
CCS can be used to lower the carbon footprint of vital, hard to decarbonize industries like cement, steel and manufacturing. These energy-intensive industries need high-temperature heat, often requiring oil and natural gas. Additionally, some industrial processes emit CO2 emissions as a byproduct, known as process emissions. CCS is a promising technology that can capture and store these unavoidable emissions.
How Does it Work?
CO2 is separated from other gases at large industrial facilities like refineries, natural gas power plants, steel mills and cement plants, or from the atmosphere. There are several proven and effective ways CO2 can be captured based on the emissions source.
Once isolated, the CO2 is compressed using high pressure to change the CO2 from a gas to a supercritical liquid. Pipelines, which have safely delivered CO2 from production sites to storage facilities in the U.S. for over 50 years, are the most common mode of transport.
After being transported to the well-characterized and permitted geological storage site, the CO2 is injected more than a mile underground into deep rock formations where it is safely and permanently stored. Geologic formations have safely contained a variety of liquids and pressured gases such as oil, natural gas and naturally occurred CO2 underground for tens to hundreds of millions of years.
Why is CCS Important?
- In addition to reducing CO2 emissions, CCS generates many other benefits. Post-combustion carbon capture can also result in the reduction of criteria air pollutant emissions from certain facilities, improving air quality, for example.
- Alongside the environmental and health benefits, CCS deployment supports good, union-friendly jobs and can generate private investment. A report published by the National Energy Technology Laboratory found that a CCS industry build-out could result in creation of up to 1.8 million jobs through construction, operation, and maintenance of capture, pipeline, and storage sites.
- The deployment of CCS further supports domestic energy security. While the U.S. progresses towards decarbonization, oil and gas are still expected to remain a significant part of the energy mix. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that petroleum and natural gas will remain the most-consumed sources of energy through 2050. By capturing emissions from the use of oil and gas, CCS supports both the achievement of climate goals and domestic energy security, helping ensure access to cleaner, affordable energy.
CCS is a key part of the climate solution as recognized by NGOs and governments all around the world.
- The need to develop and deploy carbon capture and removal technologies has been made clear by climate experts globally, including the International Energy Association (IEA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IEA has stated that CCUS technologies will need to play a role in the global drive to reduce CO2 emissions.1 Among the decarbonization pathways IPCC considers there is a median of 665 gigatons of carbon dioxide cumulatively captured and stored between now and 2100,2 or nearly 9 gigatons captured or removed and stored on average, globally, per year.3
- In the U.S., the Biden administration has recognized the critical role of CCS in achieving emissions reductions. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) found the US will likely have to capture, transport, and permanently sequester significant quantities of carbon dioxide to reach our national goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
- Additionally, through the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Congress has their commitment to its commercialization and deployment. IIJA appropriated $12.1 billion for the large-scale demonstration and commercial deployment of the full suite of carbon management technologies, including for Direct Air Capture Hubs.4 The IRA expanded the 45Q tax credit for CCUS, increasing the full value of the credit to $85 and $160 for sequestration and direct air capture respectively, extending the credit’s construction window, and allowing direct pay for the value of the credit.5
CCS is a proven technology – the oil and gas industry has decades of experience injecting CO2.
- The methods that apply to carbon sequestration process are not novel. The US has more than 40 years of CO₂ injection and gas storage experience. During the last 40 years, the U.S. oil and gas industry’s EOR (enhanced oil recovery) operations have injected more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2, and experience has shown that more than 99% of the CO₂ remains safely trapped underground after the injection is completed. While injection of carbon dioxide has historically been used for enhanced oil recovery operations to produce additional oil resources, the industry is leveraging this experience to advance permanent underground storage.
- Additionally, the federal government has developed a robust CCS regulatory framework to protect the environment and public health. EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program regulates the geologic sequestration of CO2, creating stringent regulatory requirements that aim to safeguard public health and the environment. The EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program works complementary to the UIC program, and requires monitoring, reporting, and verification of injected CO2.
- The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration promulgates and enforces regulations for the construction, operation and maintenance, and spill response planning for CO2 pipelines, applying safety requirements to CO2 pipelines similar to those for pipelines carrying hazardous liquids.6
- API has developed a field operations guide that contains a set of operational tools and references to assist in the preparedness and initial response to a pipeline release of CO2.
Industry is investing billions of dollars in CCS activities at the ground level.
- Many of API’s members are investors, operators, and developers of CCS projects and CO2 pipelines.
- Provisions like the 45Q tax credit help companies invest in these technologies even as CCS is not yet commercially viable or produced at scale.
Learn More About CCS:
- A New Dawn for Carbon Capture in the U.S.
- CO2 Underground Storage Safety
- Carbon capture, utilisation and storage
- Carbon Capture & Sequestration Technologies @ MIT
- Carbon Capture 101
- Carbon Capture
- Carbon Capture @ MIT
- What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?
- What Is Carbon Capture and Storage?
- Understanding Carbon Capture and Storage
- National Carbon Capture Center
- Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) is a unique low-carbon solution which significantly reduces CO2 emissions from across the economy
- Carbon Capture Coalition
- Understanding CCS - Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) 101
- What is Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS)?
- Explainer: What Is Pore Space?
- Guidelines for Preparedness and Initial Response to a Pipeline Release of Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Indoor Carbon Dioxide Loading Following a Simulated Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Release