Oil and gas remain entangled in many future projects.
Getting rid of carbon dioxide from factories is a big business all over the world. Technology is becoming more popular as a way for companies to cut down on the pollution they cause, which contributes to climate change. Even though the carbon capture industry is growing, it still has strong ties to the oil and gas industry.
A new report from the think tank Global CCS Institute, which supports carbon capture and storage, says that the world’s ability to capture and store planet-warming carbon dioxide has grown by 44% over the past year (CCS). This includes projects to remove CO2 from the smokestack emissions of some of the worst polluters. Industries producing electricity, natural gas processing, petroleum refining, hydrogen production, cement, steel, petrochemicals, and synthetic fertilizers are all examples.
Right now, only 30 CCS facilities are up and running, and another 11 are being built. But the Global CCS Institute says that 153 more carbon capture and storage projects are in the works. Only 61 of the 196 projects in the works around the world began in 2022.
In 2022 alone, 61 new projects began
The Verge looked at the report’s list of CCS facilities that will be running or under construction in 2022 and found that most of the projects are linked to oil and gas. About 60% of the projects are either backed by fossil fuel companies or aim to capture emissions from fossil fuel power plants, petrochemical facilities, and other industries that use a lot of gas and are related to fossil fuels, such as industrial fertilizer production and hydrogen production. And 30 of the facilities already use or plan to use the captured carbon in a process called “enhanced oil recovery,” in which fossil fuel companies shoot CO2 into the ground to push up oil that is hard to get to.
With those numbers, it’s not hard to see why some environmental groups don’t trust carbon capture as a way to fix the climate. Many people worry that technology will make economies even more dependent on fossil fuels instead of helping usher in a new age of cleaner energy sources. Food & Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Friends of the Earth are all examples of such organizations in the United States.
For a number of reasons, groups like these say that carbon capture technology isn’t a cure-all for fossil fuels. First of all, it doesn’t usually catch all of the CO2 that a source of pollution like an industrial plant makes.
With those numbers, it’s not hard to see why some environmental groups don’t trust carbon capture as a way to fix the climate.
For example, a plan to build a carbon capture facility at Louisiana’s biggest source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions, an ammonia plant, is supposed to capture 2 million metric tons of CO2 every year, even though the plant produces 10 million metric tonnes of the greenhouse gas in a single year. And that’s just when CO2 is taken into account. The ammonia plant is also in Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” an 85-mile “chemical corridor” full of refineries and petrochemical plants that pump out air pollutants that have been linked to higher cancer rates in the state.
Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the non-profit Center for International Environmental Law, told The Verge last week, after the Louisiana project was announced, that projects like this contribute to the practice of greenwashing on a massive scale.
Using renewable energy sources like solar and wind instead of putting a band-aid on coal, oil, and gas by capturing carbon can stop pollution that heats up the planet and makes people sick. There is some hope for carbon capture as a last-ditch effort to reduce carbon emissions in industries that can’t easily use solar and wind power, like heating a furnace. There are also other ways to get rid of some of the CO2 that we have put into the air in the past. Some of these methods are starting to break away from the fossil fuel industry.
But these ways to capture and get rid of carbon are still a small part of the carbon capture projects that are in the works. At the moment, it looks like carbon capture technology is mostly helping fossil fuels keep their place in our energy economy, even when we try to clean up the mess they’ve made.