For decades, mounting concerns about climate change and the growing scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions contribute to a warming planet were seen as existential threats to Louisiana industry. But in recent years, industry has sought to portray itself as part of the solution, and part of that is carbon capture initiatives.
One example is last week’s announcement from ExxonMobil that it has entered into an agreement to capture and permanently store up to 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually from CF Industries’ manufacturing complex in Donaldsonville.
Put very simply, carbon capture refers to putting the carbon that industrial processes emit underground so it can’t escape into the atmosphere, then either leaving it there or using it to make other products. Depending on who you’re listening to, the technology is either a classic win-win, boosting Louisiana’s economy while saving the planet, or a costly boondoggle that distracts from potential remedies that might actually work.
“Many in the industry believe that Louisiana could be the leader when it comes to carbon capture technology,” says Tommy Faucheux, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association.
More than $20 billion in potential projects that could create 1,600 jobs in the transitional energy sector are either planned or being considered for the Capital Region, says Russell Richardson, senior vice president for business development with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. Most would include a carbon capture element.
But the projects face looming hurdles.