SPE ATCE: ExxonMobil manager says faster CCS development requires hub projects

Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief, World Oil October 05, 2022

(WO) — During a Tuesday afternoon “Special Session” at SPE’s Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, an ExxonMobil manager explained why faster carbon capture and storage (CCS) development will require hub projects with larger scales. He also talked about the various CCS projects that his firm is involved with globally.

James White, Carbon Storage Manager at ExxonMobil, stated one immutable fact, when it comes to what the oil and gas industry is doing to handle CCS. “The reality is, we've been doing this for a long time,” said White. “We know how to do this safely. We're increasingly learning how to do it with scale.” 

Large CCS capacities. Indeed, explained White further, “You need to look at a future of individual CCS developments that are on a scale of multiple Mta’s. It will necessitate significant transportation systems and disbursement systems with multiple injection sites...And then, of course, how do we bring that to fruition earlier and earlier? But as we within ExxonMobil try to talk about the challenge and the opportunity associated with CCS, we often try to make sure that we're talking about an urgent case and thinking of the IEA's net zero case as a call for action, a case for urgency, we think is an important reference point.”

White went on to say that the global O&G industry is at about 40 Mta globally today, in terms of CCS capability. “By the time we get to 2050,” he continued, “we're looking at something approaching demand for CCS in the 8-Gta realm. Now, for reference, 4 Gta would be the equivalent of the entire oil and gas industry today on a fluid-handling capacity. So, think about it from an investment perspective, in terms of infrastructure, transport, cost and schedule associated with this structure. The volumetric size needed for years on an equivalent basis is something twice the size of the oil and gas industry today.”

Hub projects. He then asked, “How are we to accomplish this? The pace at which we're applying CCS today globally is not going to get us there. So, increasingly, that we're thinking more and more about hub-scale CCS as a way to accelerate the pace.”

And where to build such projects? White said it turns out that the Houston area, specifically the industrial activity along the Houston Ship Channel, linked with the geology of the U.S. Gulf Coast, is an ideally suited area for hub-scale CCS. “We announced in April of 2021 the Houston CCS hub concept, and one that we continue to make significant progress on, albeit still in the early planning phases,” he said. “The hub envisions several companies working together, collaborating closely to advance large-scale carbon capture and storage in the Houston region.

This is not going to be a single project, explained White further. “It's going to be multiple projects executed over a period of time, with various participating companies. We've announced one significant component of our Baytown Blue Hydrogen plant, which should generate approximately one Bcf per day of hydrogen. It's anticipated that we could produce, capture and store up to approximately 10 Mta of CO2 from that facility alone, as an example of kick-starting the CCS concept. We talked about capturing and storing up to 50 million tons of CO2 by 2030 and doubling that ten years later.

Governmental cooperation. To do all this will require some governmental help, acknowledged White. “As we talked about in the earliest sessions of this panel, there are quite a bit of regulatory issues that governments have to facilitate, to get us there…But at the end of the day, in addition to climate impact, we have the opportunity to promote long-term economic growth, generate new jobs, protect existing jobs, and continue to think about how the Houston area can be a re-imagined Energy Center and Energy Capital. Importantly, this initiative is sponsored by Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, as well as Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia. So, when we talk about collaboration and engagement with communities, we've already gone a long way toward making sure of that.

Projects worldwide. White said that the Houston CCS hub is just one of many hub-scale CCS opportunities that ExxonMobil is pursuing globally. ExxonMobil's portfolio already includes three active CCS locations, one in the U.S., at the firm’s La Barge Wyoming gas plant, which is expanding another 1.2 Mta of capacity from the current 7 Mta. In addition, there is the Gorgon project in Australia, which captures about 4 Mta of capacity daily. The third active CCS facility is in Qatar at Ras Laffan, with about 2.0 Mta of capacity, currently the largest project in the Middle East, he said.

Additional CCS opportunities. As we look globally, we'll have additional opportunities that we envision in the United States, including the Houston CCS concept” added White. “In Canada, Imperial Oil is working to employ different CCS capabilities, in particular, in support of renewable diesel generation at our Strathcona refinery in Alberta, as well as a participant in the oil sands pathway collaboration. Moving to Europe, you can see a number of opportunities in Western Europe, in the North Sea area. We participate in the Acorn project in the North Sea in Scotland. We're evaluating decarbonization from all primary operations in Southampton. We're participating in Port of Rotterdam decarbonization with the Porthos project.

And moving towards Southeast Asia, in China, we're working with CNOOC, China's National Offshore Oil Company, and Shell to decarbonize the Dayawan chemical plant. And then throughout Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, we have another number of efforts going on with national oil companies, as well as our own operations, to try and understand the regional decarbonization potential of this area. And then lastly, in Australia where we've announced the Southeast Australia CCS project at Gippsland. So again, we know how to do it, and we are doing it today. And we're doing safely, and we can grow.

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