Democrats back Gulf carbon storage, despite criticism

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Thursday signaled support for developing the Gulf of Mexico into a carbon storage hub, despite objections from some environmentalists.

During a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Chairman Alan Lowenthal, D-NY, said that while he has concerns about environmental impacts, carbon storage in the Gulf presented a much-needed opportunity to store emissions from hard-to-decarbonize industries like manufacturing and chemicals.

“The Gulf of Mexico’s outer continental shelf has enormous potential to permanently store large amounts of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere,” he said.

Developers along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana have eyed ancient offshore oil and gas deposits to store carbon produced by the region’s sprawling refining and petrochemical sectors, as nations around the world are seeking to combat climate change.

In May, Bayou Bend CCS, a joint venture of Talos Energy in Houston and Denver-based Carbonvert, signed an agreement with the Texas General Land Office to store more than 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide on 400 acres under the Gulf. from Mexico.

Last year, Exxon Mobil announced plans to develop a carbon storage complex in the Gulf with a capacity to store 100 million tonnes of carbon per year and has since signed partnerships such as Chevron, Dow Chemical and the Calpine Electric Company.

But at present, federal tax credits for carbon capture and storage remain well below what developers believe are needed to make those plans a reality. Oil companies and other businesses are lobbying Congress to increase the tax credit and develop clear regulations regarding carbon dioxide storage and monitoring.

“As with any capital-intensive industry, the U.S. sector (carbon capture and storage) needs certainty and predictability,” Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said at Thursday’s hearing. . “Improvements must be made to US laws and regulations to foster growth and enable success.”

Last year, Congress approved $2.1 billion in funding to help companies develop carbon capture and storage projects.

And developers have turned their attention to the Gulf, with its high concentration of industrial pollution and an offshore oil industry that seems well-suited to pumping carbon dioxide from beneath the seabed.

“The Gulf of Mexico Basin is one of the most studied geological regions in the world,” said Tip Meckel, principal investigator at the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, on Thursday. “Several engineering studies identify hundreds of gigatons of storage capable of handling national emissions for decades.”

Ecologists continue to ask questions, including how long these underground formations can hold carbon dioxide without escaping into the atmosphere, or the impact of carbon storage on marine life.

During Thursday’s hearing, Lowenthal discussed the 2020 rupture of a carbon dioxide pipeline in Mississippi that resulted in the hospitalization of 45 people.

But for now, the president seems determined to give the fledgling industry a chance to grow.

“I want to know how realistic some of these carbon storage projects are in the short term,” he said. “I personally remain cautiously optimistic.”

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