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Carbon Capture: Killing Two Birds with One Stone

In May, the biggest carbon capture project in the US went on line in Port Arthur, Texas, capturing carbon dioxide from industrial operations and using that carbon for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and securely storing it underground. It is unprecedented and the technology is breakthrough. The $431 million project was boosted by a $284 million investment by the US Department of Energy. This is the carbon capture litmus test, and the stakes are high.

The first of the facilities two plants has been capturing carbon since December 2012, while the second plant began capturing carbon in March this year.  Now both plants are operating at full capacity, and diverting for EOR. Full capacity operations mean that the facility will capture more than 90% of the carbon dioxide from the product stream of two methane steam reformers in the area—that’s one million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Those one million metric tons are then diverted for sequestration and EOR. The end picture here: This diverted carbon dioxide will lead to an estimated annual increase in oil production of between 1.6 and 3.1 million barrels from the West Hastings oil field, just south of Houston.

Not only, then, is carbon capture an environmental breakthrough—it’s also a fossil fuels breakthrough as it show the potential to extract harder-to-access hydrocarbons or tap deeper into wells that have already been tapped out.

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