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A man works near a carbon injection site well near the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant, outside Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Approximately 49 million tons of CO2 could be cut via carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) in the power sector — equivalent to removing 7 million cars from the roads — by 2030, according to a Clean Air Task Force (CATF) report published this week.

Why it matters: The oil and gas industry has experimented with CO2 removal technology since the 1930s to purify process streams from CO2. Now similar technology could be used to ease the transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources.

Background: CCUS is considered an important medium- and long-term means of reducing carbon emissions in fossil fuel–intensive industries. The International Energy Agency (IEA) places 32% of the responsibility of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 — a pledge many governments, including California's and the EU's, already support — on CCUS.

What's new: The Trump administration approved a new tax credit in the February 2018 budget legislation for CCUS, which made several changes:

  • Expanded and increased the value of an older credit, from $10/ton of CO2 captured to $35/ton for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) — a process of injecting captured CO2 into an oil field to recover additional petroleum — and from $20/ton to $50/ton for geological storage.
  • Established 12-year credit security for new deployment projects.
  • Reduced the eligibility threshold from 500,000 to 100,000 tons of CO2 captured for industrial applications.

Currently, the greatest CCUS success story is the retrofit system at the W.A. Parish Plant in Texas — the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project— which was named Plant of the Year in 2017. The plant uses sorbent materials called amines to capture approximately 90% of the CO2 from the plant's 240-megawatt slipstream, which is then repurposed for EOR.

Yes, but: Some critics suggest that coupling CCUS with EOR could lead to more oil production, as it would enable production at otherwise unusable wells. Nonetheless, the CATF report holds that EOR–produced oil emits 37% less CO2.

What to watch: The simulations from CATF maintain that the new tax credit has the potential to deliver emission reductions in the power sector in line with what's necessary to keep global warming under 2 degrees celsius. CCUS technologies may come to play a larger role in climate policy debates, including those around the Green New Deal.

Luca Mastropasqua is a senior research scientist at the University of California Irvine's Advanced Power and Energy Program.

Go deeper

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."

7 hours ago - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.