October 11, 2022 | Oil and Gas
CCUS involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes or from the burning of fossil fuels during power generation. This CO2 is then transported back from where it was produced through ships, road or pipelines. It is then either used to create products or services, or injected into rocks underground for permanent storage.
Oil and gas companies currently account for most of the CO2 captured.
And while the companies claim to be producing “carbon-neutral” gas or liquefied natural gas, this claim is more of a marketing gimmick.
The “carbon-neutral” tag is for capturing the 10-15% of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions during gas production or by purchasing carbon offsets. Yet nearly 90% of emissions from oil and gas do not occur during production. Instead, they occur when the product is used, that is, burnt (these emissions are known as Scope 3).
Geographically, China’s carbon dioxide emissions amounted to 9.9 billion tons in 2020 -- about 30% of the global total.
To capture and reutilize these kinds of emissions, more CCUS projects are undertaken by oil and gas companies. For example, Shell, ExxonMobil, Guangdong government and China National Offshore Oil Corp signed an MoU to do a feasibility study for building one of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage projects.
In steel, concrete, ethanol and fertilizer industries, CCS is seen as a promising option for cost-effective and scalable emissions reductions. Post pandemic, there has been a massive increase in CCUS projects announced globally. Most of the carbon capture projects are in the U.S. given the extensive availability CO2 pipeline network and the demand for CO2-enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) and public-funded programs.
However, the use of CCUS technologies is yet to achieve its full potential.
Recent studies have found these technologies to be not fully effective in capturing all forms of emissions, like Scope 3 emissions which contribute to a major chunk of overall carbon emissions.
Moreover, existing projects aren’t functioning as expected, according to a study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). It said 10 of the 13 flagship projects have failed or underperformed against designed capacities by a large difference.
According to CCS Institute and IEEFA, nearly three quarters of the carbon dioxide captured is reinjected into oil fields to push more oil out – a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
EOR with CO2 (CO2-EOR) is the largest industrial use of carbon dioxide -- about 70% of the CO2 captured each year globally.
This EOR leads to CO2 emissions directly and indirectly -- directly when the emissions are released from the fuel used to compress and pump CO2 deep in the ground, and indirectly when the emissions are released from the burning of hydrocarbon that could not have come out without EOR (Scope 3 emissions ). Today, more than 70% of carbon capture projects are EOR projects, resulting in increased emissions.
Although projects are being undertaken on massive scales to capture carbon, there are multiple instances of CCS project failures and challenges.
In power generation, CCS is struggling to meet industry target capture rates. Moreover, the cost of CCS in industrial applications is also compared with greener sources like green hydrogen, which is cheaper and has zero emissions.
Here are some more eco-friendly ways of using the captured carbon:
These methods -- currently in initial phases of study and deployment -- can prove to be efficient in decarbonizing global economies by using the captured carbon in a better way. Alongside, an additional focus on renewable sources of energy can also prove effective in reducing emissions in the coming time.