The Air Products and Chemicals hydrogen production facilities in Port Arthur, Texas, is funded by the Energy Department through the 2009 Recovery Act. It is managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. | Photo credit Air Products and Chemicals hydrogen production facilities.

A breakthrough carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) project in Texas is beginning to use carbon dioxide (CO2) to extract hard-to-get oil from a depleted oil field.

The project at Air Products and Chemicals hydrogen production facilities in Port Arthur, Texas, has begun capturing CO2 that would ordinarily be released to the atmosphere. Employing a cutting edge gas-separation technology called "vacuum swing adsorption," more than 90 percent of the CO2 will be removed from the process gas stream used in hydrogen production. Once the CO2 is captured, it’s then delivered through a pipeline to an oilfield to be used in enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

EOR is a critical tool for producers to retrieve oil that otherwise would be too difficult -- and too expensive -- to reach. There are several methods for EOR, which usually involve injecting steam, gases or chemicals into oil reservoirs to push trapped oil to the surface. This means that we can develop more domestic oil, which strengthens our energy security. But here’s why using CO2 for EOR is important: Capturing and injecting CO2 deep underground not only means getting more oil -- it also means that less greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere. And in the Port Arthur project, a monitoring, verification and accounting program will ensure that the CO2 remains safely trapped underground.

Funded in part by the Energy Department through the 2009 Recovery Act, the project is managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. By moving beyond research and development to large-scale demonstration, the project highlights the effectiveness and commercial viability of CCUS technology to help reduce CO2 emissions. It also marks a major milestone in the Department’s Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage program, which is focused on technologies to capture CO2 emissions from industrial sources like chemical plants, refineries, paper mills and manufacturing facilities. 

At their plant in Port Arthur, Air Products and Chemicals are demonstrating the tangible benefits of CCUS technology. This project alone is expected to capture about 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. And that captured CO2 will be used to recover between 1 1/2 million and 3 million additional barrels of domestic oil every year -- oil that might otherwise have been out of our reach. 

The Port Arthur project gives us a glimpse into a future where CCUS technologies are widely used across industry and power production to capture and utilize CO2. And what we see is the potential of CCUS to help address climate change; strengthen the nation’s energy security; create jobs; and position the United States as a world leader in carbon capture technologies and the clean energy economy.