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May 23, 2013
CCS plus utilization at Texas oil field

The Department of Energy (DOE) and an industrial partner announced the "first-of-its-kind breakthrough" launch of a carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) project in Port Arthur, Texas.  CCUS is a variation on carbon capture and storage (CCS) wherein captured carbon is also used to enhance development of oil and gas resources. 

Another first at Mauna Loa

Several days after the project was announced, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released readings showing that the carbon dioxide (CO2) level at the world’s oldest continuous CO2 measurement station in the world, at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time. CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa is considered the primary global benchmark site for monitoring the increase of CO2. The NOAA noted that the 400 ppm level had already been reached at all sites in the Arctic monitoring network in which the NOAA participates.  Higher CO2 levels generally occur first in the northern hemisphere because most of the emissions driving the CO2 increase take place in the north, says the NOAA. 

ARRA funding

The Port Arthur project is a collaboration between the DOE and Air Products, a specialty gas corporation.  In June 2010, the DOE selected Air Products to receive $283 million in funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support the $431 million commercial demonstration. 

The project involved retrofitting steam methane reformers (SMR) at two Air Products plants at the Valero Port Arthur Refinery with innovative CO2 removal technologies.  The SMRs produce hydrogen, which is widely used in petroleum refining to remove impurities such as sulfur.   The add-on equipment compresses and dries the CO2, which is then sent into a 13.1-mile-long feeder pipeline, which was also constructed as part of the project.  The feeder line moves the CO2 into an existing 325-mile CO2 pipeline that carries the product to the West Hastings oil field, about 20 miles south of Houston.

Enhanced oil production

>According to the DOE, the project will capture approximately 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year and increase annual oil production in the West Hastings field by 1.6 to 3.1 million barrels.  Both CO2 removal units are now operating at full capacity.  As of early May 2013, over 222,000 tons of CO2 have been captured and stored, says the DOE. 


Air Products notes that one of the main objectives of the project is to test and refine a monitoring, verification, and accounting program to ensure that the injected CO2 remains underground, safely and permanently trapped in the same geologic formation that confined the oil brought to the surface in the demonstration.

"By putting the captured carbon dioxide to use, CCUS provides an additional business and market case to pursue the environmental benefits of CCS," says the DOE.

Click here for a DOE fact sheet on the project.

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