Velda Addison, senior energy transition and renewables editor, Hart Energy: Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) has become a main topic of discussion.
Chris Powers, vice president of carbon capture, utilization and storage, Chevron New Energies: At Chevron, it starts with our foundational belief that the future of energy is lower carbon, and we feel like we have a key role to play in delivering affordable, reliable and ever cleaner energy to a growing world. Our new energies businesses at Chevron New Energies have a key role to play in that overall energy mix. We're setting up new businesses in carbon capture utilization and storage, or CCUS—and that one's a mouthful—hydrogen offsets and emerging technologies, things like advanced geothermal and other novel technologies that are still developing, and then renewable fuels. Each of those will have a role to play in the energy supply stack of the future, and they're each going to progress on their own time. But we're a fundamental believer in an ‘and’ world and that each of these energy sources are going to play a role to fuel the world's needs.
VA: Carbon capture technology has been around for decades and technologies are being advanced. What role does innovation play in Chevron's carbon management strategy?
CP: I love innovation first and foremost. And if you look back at our company's 140-year history, we've been doing innovation for many, many decades, fundamentally, since the foundation of the company. And if you go back into processes that have been core to our industry and have been developed by our company over time, you can go back to one of the first cracking processes that cracked oil into different fuel components, the Holmes-Manley process. You go to advanced hydroprocessing technologies like our isodewaxing and isocracking technology to advancements in natural gas to liquified natural gas, and then now into the new energies business. We've been innovating the entire time, and fundamentally we're a molecular movement and a molecule management company. So CCUS fits squarely in that spectrum. We think that there's several components that are going to need to advance and develop over time. You can think about it fundamentally as the carbon capture piece that's grabbing the CO2 either off of the emissions stack or from the air. And then there's the transportation piece, and then there's the storage piece where we're sequestering the CO2 underground for geologic time. Innovation is going to be especially critical in the carbon capture piece. That's one of the most expensive unit operations in the kit. And we have proven technology that works today, but we're investing in next generation technology development that'll bring the cost of capture down.
VA: What challenges have you run into that you were not expecting about projects here in the U.S. and abroad?
CP: I think one of the biggest challenges we have is that this is all new. It's complex and it's brand new. If you look at all the pieces of the traditional business, they have the benefit of having, again, the decades of experience. How are we going to do a contract? How are we going to do midstream processing? Is an integrated company going to do these pieces of the value chain, or is it going to say, a midstream service provider or a transporter, a natural gas processor? We've had the benefit of figuring out how all these commercial and technical arrangements are going to work over the decades. The new energy space is fundamentally brand new, so we're figuring it out as we go. Or some people like to say, ‘building the plane as we fly.’ So it's going to be super critical that we all collaborate and partner to build these new value chains, from the capture providers, capture technology providers, to the transporters, to the sequesters, figuring out what role each of us is going to play in these partnerships across the value chain, and then how we can ultimately deliver on this ambition. The world needs to move towards our net zero goals.
VA: The environmental benefits of CCUS are obvious, but what are some of the specific goals that Chevron aims to accomplish?
CP: Yeah, so we've set aspirations for each of our new business lines to progress towards over the next, call it the next decade or so. I think sort of at the core, the most fundamental thing that we need to do, and this is not only Chevron, this is the industry more broadly, we need to get the projects moving forward. So within the CCS space, and this goes similarly for hydrogen and other emerging technologies, many of the components have been there and have been in place over time. And now we need to get these first substantial projects at scale sanctioned, moving into execution, and operation and deployed. And once we start establishing those foundational projects, we can grow our ambitions over time. So it's hard to say is the industry going to hit ‘X’ amount of tons per annum, sequestered by ‘Y’ date? A lot's going to depend on how quickly we start moving up the curve. But the most critical thing we do is to get those foundational projects moving within the CCUS space. That means having our pore space ready to go, having contracts in place with the emitters, getting the infrastructure built and getting the projects moving.
VA: Let's turn to economics. How could a federal carbon tax in the U.S. change the business for Chevron and the energy sector?
CP: So Chevron is on record of saying that we support a price on carbon. And I think part of our thesis goes more broadly than that. We believe that the government, or really anybody, should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. So the best way to ensure you have the most efficient and effective technologies moving forward is to let the free market and to let technology and innovation drive the winners and losers. So a carbon tax would be a framework where that could play out. There's other means as well. But fundamentally, we want an open and fair playing field where the most efficient and effective technologies and operators will be able to compete in the market and will be able to move their projects forward. And then the emitters, and society more broadly, will have a choice of who they're going to use for those particular services.
VA: Learn more about the energy transition and renewables at hartenergy.com.
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