May 20, 2024
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Carbon Management

This is an excerpt from the executive summary of a report, “Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Carbon Management,” prepared as an account of work sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“These Pathways to Commercial Liftoff reports aim to establish a common fact base and ongoing dialogue with the private sector around the path to commercial liftoff for critical clean energy technologies. Their goal is to catalyze more rapid and coordinated action across the full technology value chain.

Modeling studies suggest reaching U.S. energy transition goals will require capturing and storing 400 to 1,800 million tonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually by 2050, through both point-source carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR).i Today, the U.S. has over 20 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of carbon capture capacity, 1–5% of what could be needed by 2050.1,ii, iii This scale-up represents a massive investment opportunity of up to ~$100 billion by 2030 and $600 billion by 2050.

America’s >20 MTPA of capture capacity already leads the world in carbon management, and the U.S. is an attractive policy and resource environment for further deployment. An increase in the value of the 45Q tax credit—a federal tax credit provided for stored or utilized CO2—has provided a greater incentive and more certainty to developers and investors and is likely to yield attractive returns for several types of projects.iv In addition, recent climate and infrastructure legislation has provided ~$12 billion in funding to support U.S. carbon management projects. The U.S. has excellent geology for storing CO2, world-class engineering and professional talent, and relatively abundant low-cost zero-carbon energy resources that can power carbon dioxide removal (CDR) projects to maximize net carbon removed.

Many large-scale carbon management projects are already proving financially attractive today with enhancements to the federal 45Q tax credit, and investors have raised billions to take advantage of these opportunities. v,vi These investments range from early-stage equity investments in carbon capture technology providers to large-scale private equity backed investments in CO2 transport infrastructure.

This report outlines the path to meaningful scale in carbon management, which we expect to develop between near term and longer-term opportunities through 2030 (Figure 1.). 2,3,4

  1. For near term (through 2030) opportunities, projects in industries with high purity CO2 streams (e.g., ethanol, natural gas processing, hydrogen) have the best project economics. Many of these types of projects are in active development or are already in operation. Large scale transportation and storage infrastructure is likely to emerge to serve these projects. These—developments along with some promising demonstration projects in higher-cost carbon management applications (e.g., steel, cement)—will lay the foundation for more widespread deployment by establishing best practices in contracting, financing, permitting, community engagement, labor agreements, workforce development, and, in some cases, through building out common carrier transport and storage infrastructure that future projects can use.
  2. For longer-term (post-2030) opportunities—industries with lower-purity CO2streams and distributed process emissions —project economics must improve to make widescale deployment likely in the absence of other drivers (e.g., regulation).  Demonstration projects from now through 2030 can support cost declines—both through learning-by-doing and standardizing project development structures. And increased policy support (either via regulation or incentives) or technology premiums for low-carbon products (e.g., low embodied carbon steel and concrete) would lead to more CCUS and CDR projects.5 These end-user-backed technology premiums combined with sustained and predictable government support can provide consistent revenue streams as deployment experience reduces costs.”

For a PDF of the complete Carbon Management report, Click on this Link to the U.S. Department of Energy website.