Carbon capture, utilization, and storage

December 2022

As much of the world continues a transition toward a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, many of the technologies that are anticipated to be part of the long-term solution, such as green hydrogen, next generation batteries, and modular nuclear power, will take significant time to reach scale. However, technologies have emerged that should help reach interim climate goals. One such technology is Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (“CCUS”), which captures carbon dioxide (“CO2”) at the source of emissions, preventing its release into the atmosphere. The captured CO2 can then be transported for use in a variety of applications or stored in underground formations.

Traditional energy sources will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future. The burning of coal, oil, and natural gas emits CO2. However, there are opportunities to equip natural gas and coal power plants with CCUS systems. Additionally, the industrial and petrochemical sectors (i.e., the makers of plastics and chemicals) are large contributors to global emissions, and many of these industries cannot cost effectively transition to significantly cleaner processes. CCUS systems may be appropriate for them as well.

In addition to focusing on what industries are viable options for CCUS opportunities, consideration must be given to the transportation, uses, and storage of CO2. The current dominant industrial use of captured CO2 is in Enhanced Oil Recovery (“EOR”), where CO2 is injected into a mature oilfield to extract oil. However, there is the potential to increase the use of captured CO2, for example, in building materials (e.g., cement) and fuels. Permanent storage also has potential to be a long-term solution based on the large-scale availability of reservoir formations that can permanently store the CO2 in liquid form.