Why carbon capture is an important part of Biden’s climate plans
President Biden’s early climate efforts prioritized popular moves: renewing the Paris agreement, purchasing clean energy and vehicles, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. But the administration’s strategies to push the country toward net-zero emissions energy will also rely, if less clearly, on a much larger area: extracting or extracting large amounts of carbon dioxide that drives warming. in the world.
In July, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Office pointed to “and Carbon Management” on its name, gestures a different shift to an agency traditionally focused on creating a more efficient way to extract fossil fuels and convert them into energy. Today, the office’s primary purpose, supported by nearly 750 federal staff and nearly a billion -dollar budget, is to improve better, cheaper ways to clean up climate -polluted industries.
New priorities include: advancing technologies and methods to prevent CO2 from escaping factories and power plants, remove it from the air, make it a new product and hide it is forever.
The office SET many researchers focuses on these issues in leadership roles, including the appointment of Shuchi Talati chief of staff. He will oversee many changes in the agency Jennifer Wilcox, the chief deputy secretary general. Talati was previously deputy director of policy at Carbon 180, a promoter of carbon removal and recycling, and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
President Biden’s agenda also plays into $ 1 trillion in infrastructure costs, which has already been passed by the Senate. it gave billions of dollars to improve plants that can capture direct air that can absorb CO2 from the air, pipelines to transfer it, and sites where it can be buried in geological formations deep underground.
Much of the climate movement has argued that carbon capture is a distraction from the core mission of eliminating fossil fuels as quickly as possible. And the field is rife with setbacks, including various ones backed by the Department of Energy boondoggles like nearly $ 2 billion FutureGen clean coal project.
But research has found that it is more difficult and more expensive to remove emissions and prevent dangerous levels of heating without extracting and extracting carbon, especially in heavy industries where there is some options. And the number of successful commercial projects grows worldwide, restricting emissions from steel, hydrogen, and fertilizer plants.
In the following interview, I asked Talati what is the necessary role of carbon capture in our response to climate change and how the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management is working to accelerate progress in the field.
The interview sequence is lightly edited for length and clarity.
Why is it important to transfer or expand the mandate of your office?
When it comes to climate objectives, especially net zero, carbon management plays an even more important role. That means not only dealing with our ongoing emissions, but recognizing that with every type of fossil fuel that is burned we have to manage the carbon that comes with that.
Ensuring that the two are connected in the name of our office is important to how this office operates and how it is identified. Because we don’t want to do any work on fossil fuels that has nothing to do with minimizing the environmental impacts that come with it.
How has the Department of Energy found carbon capture and storage to be specifically aligned with the broader effort to accelerate decarbonization and address climate change?
Where we can move the changes, we want those options. But where not possible, CCS [carbon capture and storage] plays a very important role. In industries such as cement, we know that CCS is absolutely essential to extract emissions.
We can get only the emissions from the actual energy needed, but the emissions released during the manufacturing process, where there are no other mechanisms to suppress that CO2. CCS is an incredibly versatile tool to extract emissions from many hard-to-reach sectors.
Coming to the power industry, looking at natural gas, in particular, many natural gas plants are not scheduled to retire until after 2035, which is after our 100% clean electrical purpose. That represents more than 200 gigawatts that will continue to run on natural gas. So to keep that clean, CCS is really the only option.
I would also like to say, for natural gas, we have never demonstrated this technology before. So if we really want to understand the real costs and what the sale really looks like, we need to first invest in the demonstration. That’s exactly what our office can do.
Many climate activists consider support for carbon capture tantamount to providing a social license for the fossil fuel industry to continue to function. What would your response be if you heard people express those concerns?
I understand where most of the criticism comes from. This is not an industry that needs to be straightforward. And I think the fact that it’s incorporated into the fossil fuel industry is really challenging, and that’s something we’re focusing on.
But I think it’s about the improved infrastructure we have, and especially looking at the industrial sector-which isn’t necessarily part of the fossil fuel industry, but about making products that we know will continue. essential, like concrete — we have to think about what the emissions mean, and go to zero. There is really no choice.
The job of our office, and the job of the federal government, is to make sure we do it well and make an industry responsible and build environmental vigilance around technology like never before.
You discussed the role that carbon capture can play for natural gas plants that will continue to operate for decades. But do you expect carbon capture to play a role in building the new powerful electricity generation that goes on?
Actually, I think that really depends on the market and how private companies look at their investments.
We only support reduced fossil fuels, so when it comes to building new natural gas, our support only depends on whether the CCS infrastructure is there. And I think a really important part of that, too, is reliable storage. Until now, a lot of CO2 has been used for oil refining [freeing up remaining oil from wells] and we want to ensure that we help build a strong storage infrastructure, around geologic reservoirs and around CO2-in-products with long storage periods, such as materials in construction.
Even if it can be an effective tool for cement plants or for some element of conventional natural gas plants, there is still a reasonable fear that there will be fudging here. Those emissions could go down more than the companies say, either from the plants themselves or from extraction sites, or because carbon storage areas don’t operate as effectively as expected. How can we ensure that the industry does these things in reliable ways?
I think that’s the role of our office, and I think that’s the role of this administration. I totally agree. I think we need to make sure reliable storage actually works. We have experience in terms of how CO2 is stored in depleted oil and gas reservoirs, but we do not have much experience in salt aquifers. [permeable rocks filled with salt water].
We have to do demonstration projects. We have to have it [monitoring, reporting, and verification] skills that we trust, that are strong, and that will work on the scales. And that requires investment from the government and really dedicated capacity.
I think, too, our infrastructure has infiltrates all over the entire supply chain for natural gas. So that’s really one of the priorities set in our future budget: methane reduction.
That means changing the way our office has always worked in the past. We wanted to shift the conversation to have the least environmental impacts possible from getting that happened.
Ongoing infrastructure costs with accompanying funding for direct-air capture plants. What role does the Department of Energy see directly removing carbon from the air playing in efforts to tackle climate change?
It is incredibly exciting that this is the largest carbon removal investment in history. The fact that we recognize the need to have focused demonstration funds for direct air capture is the absolute first of its kind around the world. and [the Department of Energy] has an important role to play in helping to invest in advanced technologies, to showcase them and to really help private companies take advantage of the incredible work they have done in this space.
When it comes to catching direct air, these demonstrations are even more expensive. And the $ 3.5 billion dollars will never go as far as most think it could.
We are happily excited about this technology. But there are others that I think deserve fair attention, such as improved mineralization [developing ways to accelerate the natural process by which certain types of minerals capture carbon dioxide].
If we talk about engineered carbon removal, I think improved mineralization is not yet the time of day. [Direct-air capture] was the first thought – and we wanted to change that. There is improved mineralization not surprisingly capable of scaling.
How do you feel about stress, or if there is stress, in the midst of increasing carbon emissions, but also think about potential limitations in our ability to do so?
That’s a pretty important question.
Carbon dioxide removal need not be applied in cases where we can reduce other means. For companies, that means reducing their emissions through energy efficiency, or electricity, or whatever other means. Avoiding emissions first is always the priority. Always. Because it will be cheaper, it will be more efficient to do that. Carbon removal is difficult. Dear. And the industry is not yet up to par.