Focus on Technology: Finding a way to capture carbon

Perspectives blog
Suzanne McCarron - Mar. 07, 2016

Finding ways to capture carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial operations – better and more affordable ways – could be a significant help in the bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

ExxonMobil is a leader in the development of carbon-capture-and-storage technology. The corporation has a working interest in more than one-third of the world’s existing carbon-capture-and-storage capacity. Last year alone, we captured more than 6 million metric tons of CO2 for storage.

Carbon capture experience

One important carbon-capture effort we’re involved with is the Gorgon Gas Project off the western coast of Australia. Gorgon is expected to begin natural gas production in the very near future. This massive venture will include one of the largest commercial-scale carbon-capture-and-storage projects ever.02232016_Graphic_v3

An estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide will be captured over Gorgon’s lifespan—that’s equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions produced by nine million homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This follows on our years of experience with carbon-capture-and-storage projects around the world. At the Sleipner gas field in Norway, for instance, ExxonMobil and our partners have been capturing and sequestering CO2 since 1996.

Over the last decade, ExxonMobil’s patented Controlled Freeze Zone technology has researched freezing out and then melting carbon dioxide in a single-step process that eliminates the use of solvents for carbon capture. This breakthrough process, though limited in applicability, is one example of how we are pursuing innovative methods for solving some of the complex questions facing carbon capture and storage research.

In addition to our in-house programs, we have also supported carbon-capture-and-storage research efforts with leading universities such as Georgia Tech, MIT, Stanford, and the University of Texas. That’s in addition to technical partnerships we have participated in with the U.S. Department of Energy and the European Commission to evaluate a range of carbon injection and storage technologies.

Bringing down the cost curve

As a number of industry projects have shown, our researchers know how to make carbon capture work. The big challenge, however, is making it cost-effective on a broad scale, because the technology is prohibitively expensive in many applications. So the fundamental research ExxonMobil is conducting aims to develop capture technologies with the potential to be economically feasible.

With a long history of operational, technical, and research experience in the technologies comprising carbon capture and storage, ExxonMobil is taking a lead in developing approaches that could help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

There remains a long way to go. Numerous technological hurdles must be overcome if large-scale carbon capture is ever going to make sense economically. Still, we are cautiously optimistic that carbon capture and storage could represent one of the most important next-generation low-carbon technologies.

Tags:   carbon captureCO2emissionsinnovationtechnology
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