ExxonMobil's Plan To Capture Carbon
April 22, 2021
The following article appeared as an Opinion piece in the WSJ on April 19, 2021. I suspect it might leave some Republicans heads spinning as ExxonMobil is asking the government to get involved in making this concept a reality.
As President Biden convenes the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate later this month, America has a unique opportunity to spearhead a breakthrough approach to reducing carbon emissions.
About 80% of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions come from three critical sectors of the economy: power generation, commercial transportation and industrial manufacturing. Meaningful progress toward achieving the world’s climate goals requires emission reductions from these sectors.
One of the proven technologies available that could play a major role is carbon capture and storage, or CCS, the process of sequestering industrial emissions and safely storing them permanently underground. CCS also promises the potential to reduce carbon emissions significantly at a cost competitive to other solutions, especially for the manufacturing sector.
For the past three years at ExxonMobil we have been studying the concept of creating multiuser CCS “hubs” in industrial areas. They would be located near safe geologic storage sites. A CCS Innovation Zone would bring together government incentives and private-sector investment. The heavy-industry area of the Houston Ship Channel on the Gulf Coast of Texas is an ideal location to apply this concept. This area houses one of the country’s largest sources of industrial emissions and is close to the Gulf of Mexico’s vast subsurface storage potential, where the CO2 would be permanently stored in the pore space of the rocks, thousands of feet below the seafloor. Based on Energy Department numbers, we estimate there is adequate capacity along the Gulf Coast to store around 500 billion metric tons of CO2. We further estimate that the Houston concept has the potential to store up to 100 million metric tons of carbon a year by 2040. The project could help the city of Houston achieve its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
The Houston CCS Innovation Zone concept would require the “whole of government” approach to the climate challenge that President Biden has championed. Based on our experience with projects of this scale, we estimate the approach could generate tens of thousands of new jobs needed to make and install the equipment to capture the CO2 and transport it via a pipeline for storage. Such a project would also protect thousands of existing jobs in industries seeking to reduce emissions. In short, large-scale CCS would reduce emissions while protecting the economy.
Government’s role would be to put in place a stable regulatory and legal environment and enable CCS to receive private investment and government incentives directly. Establishing a price on carbon would also provide the market certainty required to enable businesses to generate returns on carbon-reducing investments.
The lessons and knowledge gained in Houston could be applied to other parts of the country with similar industrial concentrations, including the Midwest and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast.
As the world’s leader in CCS, with about 40% of the total anthropogenic CO2 captured to date and multiple CCS projects under way around the world, ExxonMobil is eager to play our part to advance this promising concept. CCS would bring us closer to the lower-carbon future we all seek.
Mr. Woods is ExxonMobil’s chairman and CEO. Mr. Blommaert is president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions.
More information about this concept is located on ExxonMobil's website: