Included in the Energy Act of 2020 was a congressional mandate for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to contract the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) to analyze opportunities and challenges for the advancement of CO2 utilization technologies, infrastructure, and market development.

The result will be two comprehensive studies summarizing that research, the first of which was recently made available to the public.

First, NAS made clear that carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is key to meeting our environmental goals. In doing so they’ve joined the ranks of a number of U.S. and international environmental organizations, including the Clean Air Task Force, the Energy Policy Group, the Energy Transitions Commission, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

By setting that baseline, what follows was an analysis of avenues industry and government can take to facilitate the more widespread deployment of carbon capture technologies and infrastructure and the maturity of a market for increased carbon utilization.

Here is what else the report had to say:

  • NAS stated that not only are CO2 pipelines the most cost-effective transportation option for moving CO2 around the country, they also offer the benefit of being widely understood by industry and regulators for the purposes of oversight, established safety standards, and secure operations.
  • NAS identified capturing CO2 from ethanol plants as one of two primary near-term opportunities for enhanced CO2 utilization infrastructure investment. This is particularly significant for the upper Midwest where planned infrastructure projects will position the region to help lead the rest of the country in effectively leveraging carbon capture technology and infrastructure.
  • NAS noted that while the majority of CO2 pipelines in operation today have typically been used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), that experience and expertise can be leveraged when developing future CO2 utilization infrastructure projects for the next wave of our clean energy transition.
  • NAS found that the growth of hydrogen infrastructure signifies another opportunity for carbon capture – whether through the refining of petroleum products into fuel and petrochemicals or through the production of hydrogen as a fuel and ammonia for fertilizer and as an energy carrier. According to the report, the addition of carbon capture would allow the current hydrogen infrastructure to be re-dedicated to future sustainable markets, including CO2 utilization products.
  • Finally, NAS stated that, “While large-scale transportation of CO2 is somewhat novel, pipeline transport of CO2 has occurred safely for approximately 50 years. In fact, according to recent analytical work, CO2 pipelines were determined to be among the safest in the industry.”

The conclusions drawn by NAS mirror those from a recent Government Accountability Office report and a recent International Energy Agency study that carbon capture and its infrastructure have a proven track record for safety and are critical to our energy future.