CCS around the world: lost money, lost promises

The largest CCS project in the world, at Chevron’s Gorgon natural gas processing plant in Western Australia, finally started operation in 2019, three years late, and three years after gas production started. Almost five million tons of CO₂ per year that should have been captured has been released into the atmosphere. Carbon capture was a condition for the 2009 government approval of the gas project. Since capture eventually started, it has run into a lot of problems due to corrosion and sand, and has not reached capacity. Chevron has not reported how much is actually being captured. The capital cost for the project is 2.4 billion (US) dollars.

Chevron markets its LNG as green, but at best it only captures half of on-site emissions, and none of the emissions from burning the gas .

There are only five large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in operation around the world, excluding those that use the CO₂ for enhanced oil recovery. “Large scale”, according to the Australian CCS Institute, means at least 400,000 tons/year in capacity.

The only biomass project is agri-giant ADM’s ethanol factory in Decatur, Illinois. It produces a fairly pure CO₂ stream, but of the 1 million tons/year capacity only just over half was stored in 2019, according to the EPA . The project has received at least $141 million in federal support.

On top of the five projects mentioned above, there are about 30 that use CO₂ for oil recovery. One of them was Petra Nova in Texas, which received a birthday congratulation from the Department of Energy on its third anniversary  in January 2020, but is now closed for good, citing low oil prices. It took CO₂ from a coal power station and was intended to capture 33 percent of the CO₂ (and to emit 67%), but even missed that target. The Department of Energy contributed $190 million and the Japanese government provided a $250 million loan for the $1 billion investment.

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