West Virginia clean energy hub would focus on decarbonisation opportunities that feature CCUS as well as hydrogen production and utilisation

United States Steel Corporation, Equinor US Holdings and Shell US Gas & Power are teaming up to develop a regional carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen hub in the West Virginia region of the US. 

The clean energy hub would focus on decarbonisation opportunities that feature CCUS as well as hydrogen production and utilisation. Its development, and associated infrastructure, would stimulate economic growth and help cut carbon emissions.

The project aligns with both the United States’ and project partners’ ambitions to realise net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

To support its development, Equinor and Shell will jointly apply for US Department of Energy funding designated for the creation of regional clean energy hubs, while US Steel is evaluating its role, including as a potential funding participant, customer, supplier, or partner.

Grete Tveit, SVP Equinor Low Carbon Solutions, said, “For 14 years we have been engaged and investing in this region, and our significant equity gas production in the Appalachia region has proved to be an important low carbon asset in our portfolio.”

With an abundance of low carbon gas, a robust industrial sector, and a skilled workforce, the tri-state region boasts the optimal location for a potential hub.

Lee Stockwell, GM US Carbon Capture and Storage for Shell and signee of the Cooperation Agreement, said, “Together, we’ll continue to leverage our deep technical experience, existing networks, and seek to buildout the partnership with our customers and other partners.”

Richard L. Fruehauf, United States Steel’s Chief Strategy & Sustainability Officer, said it is investing significant resources to achieve the sustainability goals in its Best for All®strategy.

”We know we cannot do it all alone,” he said. ”Successfully addressing the climate crisis requires public and private collaborations. This agreement is another effort to advance profitable, sustainable steel solutions for people and the planet.”

To realise the true potential, the three companies will engage the local industry, labour, educational institutions, and communities.

Regional CCUS hub builds on US ‘global leader’ status

The US is the global leader in CCUS, accounting for more than 60% of global carbon dioxide capture capacity and half of all planned capacity, underpinned by new policy incentives and a supportive investment environment, according to the IEA.

Around 80% of industrial facilities and power plants, accounting for 85% of emissions, are located within 100km of a potential storage site and 75% of plants (80% of emissions) within 50km. To put these distances into context, the average distance over which CO2 is currently transported by pipeline between existing CCUS facilities is around 180km and the maximum around 375km (from the Lost Cabin Gas Plant).

The US has the world’s largest CO2 pipeline network (8,000km), which can provide a basis for developing new capacity to link emissions point sources to dedicated CO2 storage and EOR sites in the future.

At least another 18-20 planned projects are on the drawing board, that would add around 46 Mt/year were they all to come to fruition.

Most existing CCUS projects in the US are associated with low-cost capture opportunities, including natural gas processing and the production of synthetic natural gas, fertiliser, hydrogen and bioethanol.

All but one of the ten existing projects earn revenues from the sale of the captured CO2 for EOR operations. There are also numerous pilot- and demonstration-scale projects in operation as well as significant CCUS R&D activity, including through the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories.

ETC report highlights combined benefits 

In its latest report, Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage in the Energy Transition: Vital but Limited, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) describes the role CCUS has alongside zero-carbon electricity, clean hydrogen and sustainable low-carbon bioresources in delivering a net-zero economy by mid-century.

Total investment in CCUS infrastructure is estimated at up to $5trn by 2050, but this is less than 5% of the total investment needed for the energy transition and equivalent to 0.1% of projected global GDP over this period.

Adair Turner, Chair, ETC, said, “Collective action by government, corporates and investors is needed now to ensure that CCUS can scale-up and play this vital but limited role in industrial decarbonisation and deliver some of the carbon removals essential to keeping 1.5°C alive.”

It highlights six critical actions needed this decade:

  • Overcoming the green premium to make CCUS deployment economically viable through e.g. carbon pricing, early-stage financial support where needed - scaled through a combination of government and industry mechanisms (e.g. low-carbon product standards, buyer coalitions, procurement mechanisms).
  • Developing enabling infrastructure such as shared transport pipelines and storage sites. Government and industry can develop CCUS hubs that enable economies of scale.
  • Targeting R&D and deployment support towards high capture, next-generation CCUS technologies as well as developing innovative business models, such as Carbon Capture as a Service.
  • Regulating and managing risks to ensure responsible and secure CCUS development by assigning long-term responsibility for storage sites and meaningful penalties for leakage.
  • Setting standards and regulation to ensure high CO2 capture rates alongside developing transparent, best-practice monitoring of CCUS.
  • Building public support for CCUS’ appropriate role as a low-carbon technology by articulating a clear strategic, but limited role for CCUS, and transparency on performance.