By Tiffany Roberts, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs
A growing number of governments and businesses alike are making future commitments to carbon neutrality, which requires achieving zero net carbon emissions through eliminating, repurposing or removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from operations, or from balancing emissions with carbon removal or offsetting.
Carbon neutrality is a bold and admirable goal and one the state of California has set to achieve by 2045. But like many aggressive goals, achievement won’t be an easy path, and the roadmap to getting there remains clouded with uncertainty. While the oil & gas industry has an integral part to play in ongoing emissions reductions, one technology innovation in particular can make carbon neutrality a true reality, and that’s Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage or Sequestration (CCUS).
As emissions reduction plans go into effect to reduce overall CO2, CCUS can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere and even turn it into something valuable. The pathway to carbon neutral strategies must include more than emissions reductions alone, and this groundbreaking innovation can play an integral role in shaping climate policy within California – and the world.
This technology, pioneered by our industry, captures CO2 before it hits the atmosphere. Scientists and engineers within our industry are able to safely trap it, store it or repurpose it into new materials as part of a circular economy. Carbon capture has the opportunity to revolutionize our collective fight for a carbon-free future, and proven results continue to reinforce that.
Let’s dive in a little deeper into this game-changing innovation:
- So, what is CCUS exactly? It’s a process that captures carbon dioxide emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants, or any emissions hub, and either stores it or reuses it so it will not enter the atmosphere. By capturing CO2 before it enters the air, the technology eliminates the carbon output entirely.
- How does it work? Essentially, carbon emitted from industrial sources would be safely trapped and stored securely in places like deep geologic formations, so the CO2 never reaches the atmosphere. Additionally, scientists are even finding ways to repurpose that CO2 and transform it into useful products such as fertilizers, cement, plastics and more.
- Why is this important to reaching carbon neutrality goals? Emissions reduction is just one side of this coin. Carbon neutrality is widely believed to be impossible without offsets and ways to remove existing carbon. The CCUS technology, which is rapidly improving every year, can allow for continued critical industrial operations while removing the carbon, creating a true path to net-zero societies.
- Does this technology exist today? The concept of such technology has been around for decades, and there are multiple CCUS projects across the globe that currently are in operation. Increased investment in new projects will accelerate both emissions capturing and key learnings to expand this technology for widespread success. Regions like California for example, who have ambitious carbon reductions goals, should be quickly implementing CCUS to help achieve them.
- Who is leading this innovation? It should be no surprise that the oil and gas industry – the women and men who have powered the U.S. for decades – is leading the charge with CCUS. In fact, the California Resources Corporation, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Valero, and Shell (all WSPA member companies) have tens of billions of investments and commitments underway that will help drive progress with CCUS, and with the environment broadly.
- What’s next? This rapidly expanding technology will only improve as more projects come online. Ideally, the United States, and California in particular, will commit to CCUS investments with our industry to continue to partner towards shared environmental goals.
While the rate of innovation has been exciting, we know our industry still has a lot of work to do both from a CCUS research and development standpoint, as well as with ongoing investments to make impactful carbon reduction. There is no silver bullet in the journey to carbon neutrality, but CCUS has an exciting part to play. The oil and gas industry will continue to provide sustainable innovations that will help get us to a sustainable energy future that works for everyone, and CCUS is an exciting example that can make carbon neutrality seem possible.