New CCUS Technologies Are On the Horizon

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Last year, Energy Fairness published a guest post from the Executive Director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA)—Jason Begger. Mr. Begger detailed efforts underway in Northeast Wyoming to turn carbon emissions from a liability into an asset. Recently, he highlighted these efforts underway at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Developed as the result of a private/public partnership between the State of Wyoming, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Tri-State Transmission and Generation Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA), the ITC provides space for researchers to test Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) technologies utilizing actual coal-based flue gas. CCUS is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and storing them without being emitted into the atmosphere. If efforts at the ITC or other facilities are successful, the captured CO2 could then be made into viable commercial products like building materials, alternative fuels, and other every day products.

Projects such as the ITC are important for the future of carbon capture research. Many experts see CCUS as crucial to curbing global temperature rise due to CO2 emissions. Currently, there are only 19 facilities worldwide with the ability to capture, compress, transport and store CO2 produced by large industrial plants. Another 32 are under construction, 

According to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, CCUS technology needs to increase exponentially in the coming years to meet aggressive carbon reduction targets. “If you want to go to net zero, [carbon capture is] no longer an option — it’s a necessity,” says Lee Beck, a senior adviser at the Global CCS Institute.

Unfortunately, innovative new carbon capture technologies in the U.S. have run into a regulatory brick wall at the IRS. Two years ago, President Trump signed into law the Furthering Carbon Capture, Utilization, Underground Storage and Reduced Emissions (FUTURE) Act as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The FUTURE Act extended and enhanced a crucial tax incentive aimed at spurring private investment in CCUS technologies. Yet, the IRS has failed to issue the regulatory framework needed to usher in a new generation of carbon capture technology. 

Once the IRS releases its guidelines, new carbon capture facilities could be announced within six months to a year. Lawmakers remain supportive of CCUS technology, but the frustration has been bipartisan with respect to the IRS’ delay in issuing the guidance  

Whether it is coal — or natural gas acting as a bridge fuel — fossil fuels will continue to be integral slices of the U.S. electricity mix in the foreseeable future. CCUS technology offers a clean, reliable way forward for cutting emissions while ensuring the reliability of the grid and affordability of electric power. Projects like the ITC are just the beginning, new technologies are right around the corner, but the IRS just needs to the issue the guidance to let U.S. developers know it’s time to get started.