Carbon Capture Awareness MonthThe Workover Blog

At Commission Shift,  April is Carbon Capture Awareness Month.

Carbon capture use and storage (or CCUS) is a significant technology with a lot of risks. These risks are made worse by the the Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas agency, applying for permitting authority over these projects.  Texas’s oil and gas agency has not adequately addressed problems associated with facilities which it already oversees, like oil and gas wells, orphaned wells, and waste pits, eroding any confidence that they will manage new pipeline and injection well projects to safe and acceptable standards.

What do you know about carbon capture, and what do you want to know?

Text from the slides:

What is Carbon Capture UTILIZATION and Storage (CCUS)? And what does it have to do with Texas?

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is the processes by which the greenhouse gas Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is taken out of the air and injected underground in order to mitigate global warming.

First, CO2 is captured from ambient air or directly from the emitting source. Then, highly pressurized gas is transported via pipeline to an injection site where CO2 is injected in depleted oil field sites in order to recover more oil (a process called enhanced oil recovery) Or CO2 is permanently injected deep underground in order to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Both locally and across the globe, CCUS projects have largely failed to reach projected emission reductions. CCUS projects have high rates of failure, underperformance, and closure.* Across all categories, mechanical methods of capturing CO2 underperform compared to biological methods of CO2 capture.

Many Aspects of the carbon capture and storage process are dangerous. A CO2 pipeline failure in Satartia, Mississippi by Texas operator Denbury sent dozens of people to the hospital and suffer long term, debilitating health impacts.

The state oil and gas agency is not ready for CCUS.

The state agency responsible for regulating oil and gas development (RRC) is applying to be the sole permitting and regulatory authority in Texas for carbon dioxide injection wells too, but the agency has a poor track record of overseeing existing injection wells. [Image of salt crystals form at the edge of Lake Boehmer, a 60-acre saltwater lake in Pecos County, formed by an unplugged oil and gas well. The well-turned-lake releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which can be fatal at high concentrations. This is just one example of the many harmful wells polluting our state that go for decades without clean up.]

Community Voices are Silenced

The state oil and gas permit application notices also do not include all interested stakeholders. Outreach to nearby communities has been virtually nonexistent, and timelines for public comment are far too short. This is especially troubling considering that Black and Hispanic Texans are disproportionately impacted by oil and gas development. Texas is poised to repeat huge environmental justice mistakes with CCUS by leaving out the voices and experiences of those most impacted by these projects.

Even if all the technical and economic structures were in place for CCUS to work as intended, Texas has a hobbled oversight structure that will result in harm to public health, safety, and the environment if more CCUS infrastructure is built here.

*Robertson, Bruce, and Milad Mousavian. “The carbon capture crux: Lessons learned | IEEFA.” Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, 1 September 2022, https://ieefa.org/resources/carbon-capture-crux-lessons-learned

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