Exxon proposes massive $100B CCS project

By Carlos Anchondo | 04/20/2021 07:12 AM EDT

Exxon Mobil Corp. proposed a large project yesterday to capture and store industrial carbon emissions near Houston.

Exxon Mobil Corp. proposed a large project yesterday to capture and store industrial carbon emissions near Houston. Francis Chung/E&E News

Exxon Mobil Corp. floated the idea yesterday of a $100 billion carbon capture "innovation zone" to trap and store emissions from industrial sources around Houston.

In a online post, Exxon said "the time is right" to develop a massive hub that would capture carbon dioxide emissions from petrochemical, manufacturing and electricity generation facilities along the Houston Ship Channel and nearby area. The zone is meant to be a large-scale collaboration between government, industry, academia and local communities, Exxon’s post said, and would need public and private funding.

"That’s why we envision a ‘zone’ approach, similar to other public-private initiatives established to facilitate economic growth or tackle other broad societal challenges," said Joe Blommaert, president of Exxon’s Low Carbon Solutions.


Casey Norton, an Exxon spokesperson, said the company is "actively engaging with all levels of government, the investment community and investors," adding that those conversations would determine how fast things move from concept to a plan.

Blommaert said Houston is ideal for a carbon capture and storage hub because it is home to many industrial emitters and is accessible to geological formations in the Gulf of Mexico that could store "large amounts of CO2 safely, securely and permanently."

"This concept could be a game-changer for deployment of [carbon capture and storage], benefitting not just Houston and its ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2050, but the United States as a whole," Blommaert wrote on the blog.

Exxon said while it’s "uniquely positioned" to help advance the innovation zone concept, the oil and gas major would not be going at it alone. The project would demand a "collective effort," the post said.

Exxon said with appropriate policies in place, infrastructure could be built in the U.S. energy capital to capture and store roughly 50 million metric tons of CO2 per year by 2030, according to the post.

Exxon, which announced a low-carbon division in February, has faced criticism that its carbon capture plans are tied to continued fossil fuel extraction (Energywire, Feb. 2).

The oil and gas company’s new concept comes as the Biden administration has backed legislation to develop more carbon capture infrastructure (E&E Daily, April 1).

That legislation — the "Storing CO2 And Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act" — was directly listed in Biden’s American Jobs Plan alongside other measures like expanding the federal 45Q tax credit, a key incentive for developers of carbon capture projects.

Blommaert said the carbon capture innovation zone project in Houston could provide lessons for other parts of the country, like the Midwest or other places along the Gulf Coast, that also have large concentrations of industrial facilities that are near "suitable CO2 storage sites."

"Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is a big challenge — requiring new technologies, new policies and new ways of thinking," Blommaert said. "A Houston CCS Innovation Zone could be a giant step in the right direction."