BY MATT WELCH CONSERVATIVE TEXANS FOR ENERGY INNOVATION
Matt Welch is the state director of Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation, a statewide organization that promotes free enterprise, increased competition and less government regulation in the energy economy.
Opportunity is knocking at Texas’ door. We should quickly open it to welcome technology that allows us to continue to use the state’s natural resources and to protect the environment. That technology is called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), and the opportunities it brings are enormous and unlimited.
CCS allows for the permanent storage of CO2, a potent greenhouse gas. Currently, a company must seek approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to store CO2. The Texas Legislature is considering House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 450, legislation that would empower the state to authorize this storage. Storage occurs in what are called Class VI injection wells, and the legislation would put approval authority with the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC).
Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil are major Texas companies actively deploying carbon capture projects in a variety of forms and settings around the country.
“For the past three years, ExxonMobil has been assessing the concept of multi-user CCS hubs in industrial areas located near geologic storage sites, such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs,” says Joe Blommaert of ExxonMobil. “We believe the time is right for a large-scale collaboration in the United States between government at every level, private industry, academia and local communities to create an “innovation zone” approach to dramatically accelerate CCS progress.”
ExxonMobil is exploring the possibility of a $100 billion project along the Houston Ship Channel and the surrounding areas that would allow for the capture of all CO2 emissions from local petrochemical, manufacturing and power generation facilities. The CO2 could then be stored thousands of feet below the Gulf of Mexico to be used in various ways and to help meet emissions goals.
As the technology matures, other uses for captured CO2 are coming online. For instance, in 2018, NET Power completed a 50 MW power plant test facility in La Porte that uses a revolutionary process of burning natural gas with a mixture of CO2 and oxygen. The result is power generated by turbines spun by high pressure CO2, not steam. That means the plant runs with zero air emissions including traditional pollutants and CO2. In fact, excess CO2 generated in the process is shipped by pipeline for use in other projects, like oil and gas recovery, and helps make the cost of power more competitive in the marketplace. This proven Texas technology will now be shipped around the world, including to a recently announced 280 MW plant in Illinois.
“Given Texas’ long experience with all aspects of oil and gas development, it would make sense for the state to have the primary authority of making sure that production and storage occur in a safe and environmentally responsible way,” says Josiah Neeley, Texas director of the R Street Institute. “While Texas, along with most other states, has been granted primacy over various well types, Class VI wells have remained under federal oversight.”
Asserting Texas primacy on this issue would allow the state to be more responsive as the carbon capture industry continues to develop. According to a study by the Rhodium Group, prepared for the Regional Carbon Capture Deployment Initiative, Texas is uniquely situated to benefit from the expansion of a carbon capture and storage industry.
“Texas has the opportunity to create an annual average of up to 18,350 project jobs over a 15-year period and 9,230 ongoing operations jobs through the deployment of carbon capture at 95 industrial and power facilities,” the study states. “The retrofit of equipment at these facilities has the potential to capture nearly 161 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. Along with the development of CO2 transport infrastructure, this would generate up to $59.9 billion in private investment.”
The efforts to apply for and obtain primacy from the federal government is nothing new; the state already has jurisdiction over all other types of wells across Texas. In 2018, another energy-rich state, North Dakota, was granted primacy from the federal government for its Class VI wells, and Wyoming followed just last year. By passing House Bill 1284 by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, and Senate Bill 450 by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Texas positions itself to not only reduce CO2 emissions but capitalize on an ever-emerging economic opportunity.