CCUS: A Key Clean Energy Technology

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The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing on the merits and future of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS).  Specifically, the hearing vetted the potential of the Enhancing Fossil Fuel Energy Carbon Technology (EFFECT) Act, S. 1201 introduced by the committee’s Ranking Member or senior Democratic member, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).  

The EFFECT Act would expand the Department of Energy’s fossil energy research and development (R&D) objectives and establish new R&D programs for carbon capture, utilization, storage, and removal by establishing the following new programs:

  • A Coal and Natural Gas Technology Program
  • A Carbon Storage and Validation Testing Program
  • A Carbon Utilization Program
  • A Carbon Removal Program

In April,  Energy Fairness commended the introduction of the EFFECT Act, which continued our discussion on carbon capture technologies.  Successful development of these development of these technologies will be vital in maintaining an affordable and reliable supply of energy.  In January, the Executive Director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, Jason Beggar, discussed the virtues of the Wyoming Integrated Test Center as one of the few operating power plants in the world for researchers to test their carbon capture technologies. 

A discussion about the importance of these future technologies flourished in the Energy Committee and was a refreshing break from the debate about whether or not Climate Change was occurring.  

In her delivered remarks, the chairman of the committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), noted “We are warming in the state of Alaska at twice the rate of the Lower 48…Our Committee recognizes the threat of climate change. We have been hard at work on practical, bipartisan solutions to increase deployment of clean and innovative energy technologies.”  Senator Manchin referred to his legislation as a “moonshot” intended to incentivize further the development of commercial carbon capture and utilization technologies. 

After reaching a consensus about the occurrence of Climate Change, the committee heard from witnesses who highlighted the indispensable role that CCUS technologies will play in meeting carbon emission reduction targets.   

Dr. Julio Friedman, Director, Columbia University Carbon Management Research Institute, noted how “without CCUS most [carbon reduction] models do not converge on a solution at all. Those that do cost more than twice as much to reach the same targets.”   Dr. Friedman also noted how there are currently 18 CCUS facilities in existence throughout the world (8 of them in the U.S.) currently preventing 34 million tons of Carbon Dioxide from entering the environment annually.  

One of those facilities, NRG’s Petra Nova, was represented at the hearing.  NRG’s Judith Lagano noted that Petra Nova captures 90% of the carbon produced by one of their coal-fired units at WA Parish Power Plant.  The daily emissions captured from this facility is equivalent to daily carbon dioxide output of 350,000 cars.

If this hearing on CCUS technologies and the EFFECT Act made anything clear at all, it was that CCUS technologies will play an indispensable role in meeting carbon reduction targets while maintaining an affordable and reliable supply of energy, but without wreaking havoc on the economic engines of the world’s economies.  OR, as the International Energy Agency so aptly notes, Carbon, capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) is one of the only technology solutions that can significantly reduce emissions from coal and gas power generation and deliver the deep emissions reductions needed across key industrial processes such as steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing, all of which will remain vital building blocks of modern society.”