- Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asked Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Fuels staff about carbon capture efforts focused specifically on natural gas instead of coal, at a hearing on Tuesday, adding that carbon capture for natural gas has received "the stepchild treatment."
- Cassidy co-sponsors a bipartisan bill, S.1685, which aims to establish a carbon capture program focused on natural gas within DOE, although DOE officials say the shift from coal-specific carbon capture applications has already occurred within the agency. "When we look at carbon capture, we are focusing more on natural gas," Shawn Bennett, deputy assistant secretary for oil and gas, told Cassidy, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on energy.
- The subcommittee discussed a number of bipartisan bills focused on energy storage, carbon capture and grid modernization. The full committee will consider pending legislation on Tuesday, and advocates expect a markup of storage and carbon capture bills, according to ClearPath.
Regarding utility applications, the early inceptions of carbon capture applications were based around "clean coal" technologies, but the fundamentals of carbon capture applies to coal and natural gas generation.
"At the lab level, [DOE has] been looking at natural gas technologies for years," Jeff Bobeck, director of energy policy engagement at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told Utility Dive. "The bulk of carbon capture technology issues apply to both coal and natural gas."
As fuel switching between coal to gas continues, the next logical step for DOE is to look at natural gas technologies, he said, which already has DOE stakeholder support from companies across the natural gas supply chain.
DOE's Bennett also noted the interest from industry in carbon capture: "We had Exxon and Total just join the NCCC, National Carbon Capture Center, since they are interested in carbon capture. That is a focus that the Department has taken on as well," he told the subcommittee.
S. 1685 "encourages active public-private partnerships and establishes ambitious proof-of-concept project goals," Rich Powell, ClearPath Action executive director, said in a statement.
Bennett told the subcommittee that, despite the coal focus, the carbon capture research "also had applications within natural gas." Cassidy insisted that specific programs are more warranted by the natural gas sector, such as applications for combined-cycle gas plants.
"If we have an increasing amount of gas and a decreasing amount of coal, but the focus is basically, it sounds like, 99% upon coal... I don't want to be rude about this, but [with] the 'stepchild treatment' of gas, that seems to be kind of ignoring a mega trend," Cassidy said.
Natural gas-specific carbon capture would have a few differences, Bobeck added, such as higher temperatures from the gas combustion process and a lower concentration of carbon dioxide, warranting a focus in research and development.
The interest in spending on decarbonizing gas comes as FERC published forecasts of renewables overtaking natural gas generation additions, and climate change concerns are increasingly being considered by stakeholders and regulators.
"So much money has been spent already on coal emissions," Bobeck said. "Natural gas-specific carbon capture investments would have a long way to go to catch up."
Bobeck said the Senate bill focused on a carbon capture gas program would complement ongoing House efforts which would direct the DOE to evaluate projects based on their ability to mitigate greenhouse gases. H.R. 3607, introduced by Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, "would have the effect of ensuring that there weren't huge swings from administration to administration on research priorities... without tying [DOE's] hands with regards to a specific technology or application," Bobeck said.
The House bill is expected to sail through committee, having been crafted by Democrats in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee when the party was in the minority, and with the chairs of the energy subcommittee and full committee co-sponsoring the effort.
Senate storage bill could strengthen DOE collaboration on national security
Bruce Walker, Assistant Secretary of the DOE's Office of Electricity, testified alongside Bennett, issuing support from the DOE for the proposed legislation, which ranged from several energy storage bills to energy efficiency investments.
Walker noted ongoing DOE efforts to address the bills. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, introduced S. 2048, which seeks to establish a joint program between DOE and Department of Defense (DOD) to develop long-duration storage, would expand DOE's capabilities on its existing partnership with DOD.
"We are working very closely right now with the Department of Defense. We have a number of pilot projects underway for existing storage programs at some very specific sites," Walker said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the story misquoted Bennet. He told Senators that ExxonMobil and Total joined the NCCC.