ExxonMobil, other oil giants, looking to commercialize carbon capture

Oil companies have for decades made money by extracting carbon from the ground, but now they are trying to make money putting it back.

Energy giants such as ExxonMobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell are pushing carbon capture and storage—where carbon is gathered and buried underground—as part of a drive to reduce both their own and their customers’ emissions. Executives say the service could become a new source of income when the industry is grappling with how to adapt to a lower-carbon economy, The Wall Street Journal reports

Oil companies have long captured carbon from their operations, albeit mostly to produce more oil. Now they want to retool that skill as a service they can sell to heavy-polluting industries like cement and steel, burying their carbon in the ground indefinitely for a fee, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. Yet critics question the environmental benefits and high cost of such projects.

Last month, Shell, Total SE and Equinor ASA launched a joint venture to store carbon in a rock formation thousands of feet beneath the seabed off the coast of Norway. ExxonMobil has said it plans to form a new business unit to commercialize carbon capture and storage, forecasting it could become a $2 trillion market by 2040. Chevron Corp. has formed partnerships on storage projects, while BP PLC is co-developing storage projects in the U.K. and Australia. 

A record 17 new carbon-capture projects were scheduled for development last year, according to the Global CCS Institute. Many are focused on hard-to-decarbonize sectors like steel and cement making, where manufacturing processes release carbon dioxide. See the full story.