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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

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.