Way Down in the Hole, Part 2 - Capturing CO2 for a Host of Industrial Uses

Carbon dioxide is not the most potent of the greenhouse gases, but it is by far the most prevalent, which makes it a primary focus of efforts to protect the planet. And while a lot of attention is being paid to ways to reduce CO2 emissions and to capture those that are produced, it’s important to remember one key fact: There’s strong demand for CO2 for a variety of commercial uses, from enhanced oil recovery and fertilizers to industrial processes and beverage production. In other words, CO2 has real value to certain parts of the global economy and capturing CO2 for sale to these customers must be factored into the decarbonization equation. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the industrial CO2 value chain.

The push to ratchet down global greenhouse gases (GHGs) has come to shove, and anyone who works in the energy industry or invests in it now needs to be familiar with CO2, its market dynamics, and the relationship between it and hydrocarbon markets. That new reality prompted us to take a deep dive into CO2 and, in Part 1 of this series, we focused on the midstream and downstream components that have been instrumental in the development of the U.S. CO2 market. We discussed how CO2 is typically transported (as a supercritical fluid) and looked at the U.S. pipeline networks that exist to help move it from place to place. There are more than 5,000 miles of operational CO2 pipe in the U.S. owned by 29 companies, with the leaders being Kinder Morgan, Denbury Inc., and Occidental Petroleum.

We also looked at two major downstream dispositions of CO2 that have garnered the most attention from those focused on decarbonization. The first is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Sequestration is the permanent storage of CO2 in the ground — way down in subsurface geologic formations — with the aim of keeping that profuse GHG permanently out of the atmosphere. There are a couple of close relatives of CCS that are worth knowing about too. One is carbon capture, use, and sequestration (CCUS), which involves simultaneously using and sequestering CO2 — exactly what happens with enhanced oil recovery (EOR), which we’ll touch on shortly. And then there’s the oft-overlooked carbon capture and use (or utilization), also known as CCU, under which CO2 captured from industrial processes is used to make or process something, which we’ll discuss as well.

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