Mountain States

BLM Approves First-of-its-Kind Carbon Capture Project on Federal Lands

In a significant milestone for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), the Bureau of Land Management has approved and authorized for the first time ever a private company—ExxonMobil—to construct underground infrastructure and store CO2 deep underground on federal lands in Wyoming.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has continuously evolved over the last 50 years, becoming a leading climate solution to many organizations who have established net zero plans.

The emission-reduction technology has ample support from two of the most respected international organizations in the energy and climate space – the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, IPCC has urged countries and organizations to deploy CCS at scale to help advance global emission reduction goals now.

As for the BLM’s groundbreaking decision, we can only expect more good news in the CCS space in the upcoming years.

The announcement: Wyoming is an ideal state to deploy CCS at large due to its vast fossil fuel resources as well as significant CO2 storage capabilities. Notably, ExxonMobil this past February made the decision to expand its CCS capabilities at its LaBarge, Wyoming facility, which has captured more CO2 than any other facility in the world to date.

The proposal for this project will capture approximately 60 million cubic feet of carbon dioxide at an impressive depth of about 18,000 feet in the water leg of the Madison formation. In other words, the estimated 60 million cubic feet of carbon dioxide captured would equal the emissions from approximately 363,429 passenger vehicles.

But beyond the impressive emission capturing potential, BLM’s decision also shows a close collaboration between industry and government. BLM Wyoming State Director Andrew Archuleta said:

“This project is a prime example of how the BLM can work together with industry leaders to combat climate change. Projects like this will allow the BLM to play a part in reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.”

The Wyoming way: Additionally, this is a crucial development for Wyoming, a major coal and natural gas producing state. The state has been a top coal producer since 1986 and accounted for about two-thirds of all coal mined in the  United States in 2020, on top of being the ninth-largest natural gas producer, accounting for  three percent of  U.S. gas production.

By betting on CCS, Wyoming is finding the middle ground between continuing to provide affordable and reliable energy and developing available resources in the most sustainable way, while also advancing climate solutions.

Even more, by spearheading CCS storage in the United States Wyoming proves that CCS is a reliable technology for states that are heavily intertwined with the fossil fuel industry. CCS provides a technological solution that is focused on delivering innovation, while creating low-carbon growth opportunities that are essential to climate change mitigation.

After the BLM decision, what’s next for CCS? It is no secret that carbon capture will play a major role in the transition to a lower carbon economy. However, there is a long way ahead before CCS can significantly contribute to CO2 reductions. For example, Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm has noted that the U.S. needs to lock away 1.15 billion metric tons of CO2 yearly to meet the country’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Over the past decade, investments in CCS have grown significantly, including direct government support via tax credits and other financing mechanisms. Since 2010, more than $7 billion in federal funds has been directed toward supporting companies to develop and implement carbon capture technology.  And more recently, both the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) contained major provisions for CCS, including expanding and enhancing the available 45Q tax credits for carbon capture, direct air capture, or carbon utilization projects.

The CCS industry has been advocating for years to have more projects approved and streamlined, however, it was always a consistent difficulty when it came to permitting processes. The road to get to this point has been long and bureaucratic, which is why BLM’s approval of the first CCS project on federal lands is a major WIN for the industry and step forward as more investments and support for CCS rapidly grows.

Bottom line: Wyoming is set to benefit tremendously from these milestones as progress continues to be on the horizon for CCS, which will continue to capitalize on tax credits, incentives, and a burgeoning regional interest in carbon capture technology that has the potential to transform an entire region.

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