Houston carbon capture and storage gains industry support, now needs policy support

11 companies, including ExxonMobil, announced they support large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage in the Houston area, an effort that could significantly reduce industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and help the city of Houston achieve its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

Headshot of Erik Oswald
Erik Oswald

Vice President, Strategy & Advocacy, ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions

Perspective Sept. 23, 2021

Houston carbon capture and storage gains industry support, now needs policy support

I invite you to read the joint statement from Calpine, Chevron, Dow, ExxonMobil, INEOS, Linde, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, NRG Energy, Phillips 66 and Valero.

Collectively, these companies produce electricity, fuels and lubricants for transportation as well as the building blocks for products essential to modern life, such as medical supplies and packaging. And collectively, we believe Houston could capture CO2 on an unprecedented scale: 50 million metric tons per year by 2030, and 100 million metric tons per year by 2040 – enough to significantly decarbonize the Houston industrial area, one of the nation’s largest manufacturing centers. In doing so, we believe we could create tens of thousands of new jobs and protect existing ones.

Since I started in my role as Vice President of Strategy and Advocacy for ExxonMobil’s Low Carbon Solutions business in April, I’ve been meeting with community leaders, policy makers and others to talk about the opportunity and potential of carbon capture and storage technology. One thing is clear: there’s a lot of excitement and interest in this topic. However, enabling the deployment of carbon capture and storage on the scale being discussed in Houston will require support from governments — at all levels:

  • Policies enacted when carbon capture and storage technology was in its infancy are now outdated and need to be adjusted. For example, the federal government has regulations in place for extracting oil and natural gas from beneath the surface, but none for injecting CO2 far below ground for safe, secure and permanent storage.
  • Policies should support project development to encourage investment. Funding available under the federal carbon capture and storage tax credit should be expanded to provide support similar to what’s available to other low-carbon technologies, such as wind and solar. Rules should be adjusted to reflect the long design and construction phases of carbon capture and storage projects.
  • Governments can provide financial assistance to help build the necessary shared infrastructure, such as pipelines. As with other transportation infrastructure, like highways for example, incentives such as direct loans, loan guarantees and credit assistance can provide vital support to large-scale carbon capture and storage development.

Experts such as the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency agree carbon capture and storage will be essential to help achieve society’s climate goals, in part because it’s one of the few proven technologies that could significantly lower emissions from hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as manufacturing. Houston is an ideal location for large-scale carbon capture and storage due to the size of its industrial area and proximity to underground geologic formations that could store large amounts of CO2 safely and permanently.

As Mayor Sylvester Turner said, Houston could become the world leader in carbon capture and storage and “reimagine what it means to be the energy capital of the world.”

Progress toward this goal will require cooperative discussions with all stakeholders – including communities, governments and potential private investors. ExxonMobil looks forward to having these conversations to advance carbon capture and storage in Houston, and help both the city and country transition to a lower-carbon energy future.