In our last blog post, we talked about an article from the International Energy Agency (IEA) on how carbon capture is evolving worldwide. One of their key takeaways was around the role of CCUS “hubs” – mainly, that the hub model is helping to facilitate the affordability and accessibility of carbon capture technology.
So, what does this mean? A carbon capture hub brings together multiple carbon dioxide emitters with transportation and storage options. In other words, captured carbon can be transported and stored using common infrastructure.
The concept of energy hubs writ large is receiving a lot more media attention right now, but they aren’t actually new. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy, specifically, manages multiple hub programs spanning the energy spectrum, which are modeled on the Manhattan Project.
And there’s a reason this models works. Unlike a traditional carbon capture project, in which one entity is controlling the entire value chain for captured carbon, a hub model coordinates the participation of multiple organizations. On the one hand, that means standing up a hub can be more complex; however, on the other hand, investment risk is lowered, projects costs are more affordable, and the larger scale of a hub is more likely to receive government support.
This last part is key and worth unpacking. Due a hub’s scale and the relative ease of participation for emitters, a hub can potentially decarbonize an entire industrial corridor while also investing in the growth of local clean energy options. Put simply, it can speed up the deployment and use of carbon capture technology in a given region.
In May 2022, the Biden Administration moved forward the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program, which will support (as its name implies) four large-scale, regional direct air capture hubs that are comprised of a network of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) projects.
The U.S. Department of Energy stated:
“By midcentury, CDR will need to be deployed at the gigaton scale. To put this in perspective, one gigaton of subsurface sequestered CO2 is equivalent to the annual emissions from the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet—the equivalent of approximately 250 million vehicles driven in one year. Each of the projects selected for the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will demonstrate the delivery and storage or end use of removed atmospheric carbon. The hubs will have the capacity to capture and then permanently store at least one million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, either from a single unit or from multiple interconnected units.”
Applications for participation were due to DOE last month, so CAP will circle back with more information as the program’s milestones are announced.