US Senators Propose Carbon Removal Committee
US Senator Lisa Murkowski, (R-Alaska) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz) are introducing the Create Act to establish an executive committee within the Office of Science and Technology Policy to co-ordinate interagency efforts on carbon removal research and development, Murkowski said during an energy committee hearing July 28.
“The effort will be crucial as we look to effectively deploy resources to advance carbon removal technologies, and I’m already looking to build on it with other measures,” Murkowski said at a Senate energy committee hearing with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to gather evidence on carbon capture, use, and sequestration (CCUS). She also said she is working on a blue hydrogen initiative – where hydrogen is separated from methane, the resulting CO2 being sequestered – with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The US Department of Energy plans to announce up to $46mn for engineering-scale testing of next generation carbon capture technologies for coal and gas plants and $12mn for projects that directly capture emissions from the atmosphere, said Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy.
CCUS is the ‘swiss army knife’ of greenhouse gas emissions management, witnesses said. According to the US National Academy, 10 gigatons/yr of CO2 removal is required globally by 2050 to mitigate emissions from hard to abate sectors and so a wide range of technologies will be required, said former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, now CEO of Energy Futures Initiative. “The scale is daunting but possible,” he said.
Murkowski and Manchin’s energy innovation package, the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), includes incentives for CCUS, which is backed up with an authorisation of more than $5bn for carbon capture demonstration projects and to establish a direct air capture test centre.
As new satellite-based methane detection methods expose ongoing flaring and leaks, the natural gas sector risks losing its claim to be a transition fuel with a significant environmental advantage over coal. The World Bank reported earlier in July that gas flaring increased by 3% year-on-year in 2019, reaching 2009 levels. Emissions from flaring, venting and leaking could be twice as high as emissions from end-use combustion, according to Capterio, a flaring abatement firm.
In many cases CCUS is the lowest cost and fastest way forward, said Julio Friedmann at Columbia University’s Centre on Global Energy Policy, which will shortly release a report on the levelised cost of carbon abatement. “Net zero is now the curve we’re being graded on. It is the yardstick of merit. Any carbon taken from the earth must be returned to the earth,” Friedmann said at the hearing.
Although the technology has been widely used for enhanced oil recovery for many years, CCUS has only had a significant direct financial incentive in the US since passage of the Securing America’s Future Act in 2018. The pace of development of large-scale CCUS projects will depend on the extension of the existing tax incentive, the so-called 45Q carbon oxide sequestration credit, which is included in the AEIA.