Thursday, April 18, 2024

Biden administration directs $1.2B to carbon capture projects in Louisiana, Texas

by BIZ Magazine

By Greg Larose, Louisiana Illuminator

The Biden administration has awarded $1.2 billion to companies that plan to build facilities in Louisiana and Texas to remove existing carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

The projects will use a technology called direct air capture (DAC), and they would be the largest of their kind in the world. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards joined U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Mitch Landrieu, senior infrastructure adviser for the White House, on a teleconference Thursday afternoon to detail the plans.

Project Cypress, the DAC hub planned for Louisiana, will be built in Calcasieu Parish. Officials did not provide a specific location or firm timeline. The project is expected to create 2,300 jobs, with 10% of the workforce consisting of former fossil fuel industry workers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 

“Louisiana is the ideal state, I think, to take the lead in these carbon management efforts, as we’ve taken the lead in developing… low carbon opportunities that include more than 20 proposed carbon sequestration projects …” Edwards said.

The Calcasieu undertaking is a joint effort involving the Ohio technology nonprofit Battelle, Climeworks Corp. of Switzerland and Heirloom Carbon Technologies of San Francisco. 

The South Texas DAC hub is planned for roughly 160 square miles on a former ranch in Kleberg County, just down the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi. It has comparable job number targets. Partners in the hub are Carbon Engineering Ltd., Worley and 1PointFive, a subsidiary of oil and gas producer Occidental. 

Direct air capture of carbon dioxide differs from carbon capture, a technology that contains CO2 right as it’s produced from the smokestacks at an industrial site. A DAC hub pulls carbon emissions from the air, typically in highly industrialized areas. Both methods can incorporate sequestration to store the CO2 underground.

One DAC process involves super heating a catalyst, such as limestone, that when released into the air breaks down and releases carbon dioxide so that it can be captured, compressed and stored. The method 1PointFive uses involves high-powered fans that suck in air and chemically process it to remove the CO2, which can be stored or used to make other products such as building materials and low-carbon fuels.  

Granholm said the two new Gulf Coast DAC hubs will have the capacity to remove 2 million metric tons of CO2 a year from the environment — or the equivalent exhaust from 500,000 cars. The Biden administration intends to fund two more DAC hubs with dedicate money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.

Besides the benefits of removing carbon emissions, proponents of the technology say it can be used in a variety of locations and doesn’t require much land as alternative carbon storage methods. 

There are also critics of DAC technology, largely based on the large amount of energy needed to power such facilities. A 2019 study published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science analyzed emissions at a natural gas-powered DAC site. It found that over 20 years a net of just 10.5% of CO2 captured at a DAC facility will be removed from the air, with the low rate attributed to uncaptured carbon from the combustion of natural gas.

The cost of implementing DAC, still an early-stage technology, has been a significant obstacle to its widespread adoption. A 2022 report from the International Energy Agency put the cost of building a DAC hub at between $125 and $335 per metric ton of CO2 capture capacity

A representative of Batelle said the partners intend to power their ”first demonstrator” for the Cypress Project with renewable energy from a local utility and would eventually install its own renewable energy generation as the plant is built out in the future.

Environmental advocates have noted carbon dioxide obtained from DAC can be used to increase oil and gas extraction, potentially negating any positive impact from the technology. They also consider carbon sequestration a potential threat to areas where the gas is stored underground.

Neither the Cypress Project nor the South Texas DAC hub will use the CO2 captured for enhanced fossil fuel recovery, the partners said.  

Public outreach for the Cypress Project will take place in the spring when the facility’s partners will go to Calcasieu Parish to provide more detailed information. 

The Biden administration is expected to announce funding for two additional DAC hubs next year, spending close to $4 billion total on such projects.

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