Senate energy bill could help US carbon capture fly

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Note: Other includes hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture, biofuels with carbon capture and direct air capture.  Data: REPEAT project;  Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios
Note: Other includes hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture, biofuels with carbon capture and direct air capture. Data: REPEAT project; Map: Jacque Schrag/TUSEN

The Senate climate deal could lead to scaling up carbon capture in heavy industries and energy after years of limited momentum and false dawns.

Send the news: It provides a long-term extension of time for projects to qualify for existing credits and expands their application and value.

  • And it’s increasing subsidies for emerging “direct air capture” technology, but it’s not supposed to suck large volumes of CO2 out of the atmosphere quickly.

The big picture: New analysis of the Princeton-led REPEAT project looks at the grants combined with demonstration funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law.

  • They see it becoming a “viable economic option for the highest emitting industries” such as steel and cement production, oil refineries and power generation.
  • The analysis shows that carbon capture accounts for about one-sixth to one-fifth of the new bill’s total carbon reduction, Princeton’s Jesse Jenkins said via email.
  • REPEAT’s model shows that the industry in the US simply won’t fly without the new bill (view the image above).
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Why it matters: Capture of CO2 can complement climate-friendly energy sources such as renewable energy sources, storage and clean hydrogen.

  • But high costs and other barriers have long thwarted large implementations, as the global project pipeline grows.

What they say: Ben King of the Rhodium Group, a research firm, said they also see the incentives that lead to “meaningful engagement.”

  • That’s especially true for heavy industry, while the cost benefits of renewables (also helped by the bill) mean Rhodium sees few capture retrofits in the energy sector.
  • King said their forthcoming analysis of carbon capture provisions generally aligns with REPEAT’s inclusion through 2030.
  • From there, Rhodium sees even more growth in heavy industry, while REPEAT shows a post-2030 plateau, he said in an interview.
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Yes but: Nothing is guaranteed with carbon capture, which requires transportation expansion, approval of storage sites and more. REPEAT’s research offers several caveats.

Fast overtaking: The bill has many new and expanded subsidies for renewable energy, battery storage, electric cars and much more.

  • REPEAT sees it bringing the US close to President Biden’s pledge under the Paris Agreement to halve emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels.
  • It would close about two-thirds of the gap between the existing policy and the target, they estimate.
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