Influenced by Chuck’s presentation at API 2022, Russel and Chuck discuss carbon management and decarbonization, using technology to make the necessary changes, and the challenges surrounding those efforts.
In this episode, you will learn how we are becoming more energy intensive as a society, in turn causing the industry to take steps necessary to achieve a cleaner energy system that is both accessible and affordable.
Carbon Management and the Energy Transition Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms:
- Chuck McConnell is the Executive Director at the Center for Carbon Management in Energy at the University of Houston. Connect with Chuck on LinkedIn.
- UH Energy is an umbrella for efforts across the University of Houston system to position the university as a strategic partner to the energy industry by producing trained workforce, strategic and technical leadership, research and development for needed innovations and new technologies. That’s why UH is the Energy University.
- API (American Petroleum Institute) is a national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.
- Decarbonization is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions through the use of low carbon power sources, achieving a lower output of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
- Carbon intensity is a measure of how clean our electricity is. It refers to how many grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) are released to produce a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity. Electricity that’s generated using fossil fuels is more carbon intensive, as the process by which it’s generated creates CO2 emissions.
- Emissions means the release of greenhouse gasses and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.
- Fossil fuels are made from decomposing plants and animals and are found in the Earth’s crust, containing carbon and hydrogen, which can be burned for energy. Coal, oil, and natural gas are examples of fossil fuels.
- Anthropogenic is an environmental change caused or influenced by people, either directly or indirectly.
- Geologic is an environmental change that is naturally occurring and not influenced by people at all.
- Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) is a technology that can capture and make effective use of the high concentrations of CO₂ emitted by industrial activities. Consequently, it has a key role to play in decarbonization and in addressing the challenge of global climate change.
- Baseload power is the minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time.
- Carbonfree baseload power is combining CCUS onto a baseload power, like adding carbon capture utilization and storage to a coal plant
- Right-of-Way is a strip of land encompassing buried pipelines and other natural gas equipment allowing them to be permanently located on public and/or private land to provide natural gas service.
- ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) refers to the sustainability movement in oil and gas to continue operating safely, in compliance, and in a responsible manner to do no harm while achieving business objectives.
- University of Houston Center For Carbon Management in Energy (CCME)
Carbon Management and the Energy Transition Full Episode Transcript:
Russel Treat: Welcome to the “Pipeliners Podcast,” episode 253, sponsored by Gas Certification Institute, providing standard operating procedures, training in software tools for custody transfer measurement, and field operations professionals. Find out more about GCI at GasCertification.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time, and to show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener every episode. This week, our winner is Carson Garlock with Marathon Pipeline. Congratulations, Carson. Your YETI is on its way.
To learn how you can win this signature prize, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week, Chuck McConnell, with the University of Houston Energy Center, joins us to talk about carbon management and the energy transition. I originally heard a presentation from Chuck earlier this year at the API conference, and I really wanted to get him on.
Chuck, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Chuck McConnell: Thanks, Russel. Glad to be with you.
Russel: I’ve been looking forward to this conversation. I really enjoyed the presentation you did at API, and I think the listeners will get a kick out of listening to what you have to say.
Before we dive in, maybe tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, and how you ended up at the University of Houston in the Energy Center.
Chuck: I think it’s a story that would encourage everybody to not spend a lot of time planning your future because it’s going to come at you, and then you just roll with it. What’s the old saying, ‘You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.’
Chuck: It’s kind of the way it went. I graduated with a chemical engineering degree out of Carnegie Mellon in 1977, Russel, so it’s been quite a while. I spent the better part of 32 years working for an industrial gas company called Praxair, now recently acquired by Linde. It’s the world’s largest industrial gasses company.
I held a number of different positions in operations, in sales, in business, worked in a joint venture with Texaco for a bit. When I finished, I was running our global energy and hydrogen business. Actually, spent some time posted internationally in Singapore, and worked the Asia front for a number of years as well.
I was very fortunate to have a lot of opportunities come my way within my company. I was able to retire and feel really good about the time spent. I think, looking back, probably a fantastic platform for what came next.
I was asked by the Battelle Memorial Institute to come on board with them and work along with the national laboratories that they manage in carbon management in the early – let’s see – 2009, 2010 time frame. It was a time when, if you’ll recall, that carbon was on people’s minds.
There was the Waxman-Markey bill that was being discussed in terms of carbon credits and carbon taxes, etc. That never materialized. A lot of demonstration work was going on. We were at the forefront of that. I ran the Midwestern Region Carbon Sequestration Partnership as part of that and worked very closely with the national labs.
Also, I got introduced to the Secretary of Energy at the time, Steven Chu. He asked me to come to Washington and serve as the Assistant Secretary of Energy for several years, leading the office of fossil fuel, which was coal, oil, and natural gas. A lot of that was the very beginnings of a lot of carbon management with carbon capture utilization and storage, etc.
One of the other tasks, which was interesting, and it seems to be popular of late to talk about, is the management of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as well. It was, even back then, some 10 years ago, an interesting topic. Spent a couple of years there.
I’d say the time spent in Washington was great, but I couldn’t wait to leave. [laughs] I came back to Houston to Rice University for several years running their Energy and Environment Initiative.
The University of Houston actually stood up a Center for Carbon Management in Energy really at the behest of many of the energy companies that are a part of our energy advisory board at the University of Houston, every one of them facing carbon management challenges going forward, some of it clear, some of it unclear.
At the end of the day, knowing that a relationship with the university around a topic area like this was going to be essential going forward.
Just to digress for one second, the center is really the university’s way of providing science, engineering, technologies, married up with our business school, our Center for Public Policy, and our law school.
The multifunctional collaboration of these parts of the university coming together for carbon management solutions for companies, and the external world, and being able to organize our internal disciplines to work collectively and collaboratively.
Which, by the way, I might add, isn’t a natural behavior at universities, but it’s something that the center was formed to promote. We’ve been pretty successful so far. That’s really where I reside now and have the opportunity also to be quite involved with the marketplace and many of those clients that I’m talking about with projects and work that they’re developing.
Russel: It’s interesting, Chuck, this whole conversation. Your career path and mine are very different, but we started in the same place. I graduated from university in 1980. When I got out of the military in ’85, I went to work for an industrial gasses company, and worked there for about three years before I started my first business.
At least have a little bit of the same history in the background, way back in the olden days. [laughs]
Chuck: Yeah. You bet. I think the industrial gas business, for me, has always been a fantastic way to see many of the clients in many different marketplaces.
Russel: Yeah, you get exposed to a lot of things out of that business because just about any heavy industry makes some use of industrial gasses.
Chuck: Yeah. We’re the guys they can’t do without, and probably not at the front of all the decision making, but certainly, integrated with it all, and integral to it.
Russel: No doubt.
Chuck: Absolutely, I look back at those 32 years, I wouldn’t give back a day, Russel.
Russel: [laughs] I had a lot of fun, that’s for dadgum sure. Look, I was really impressed. I worked in CO2 when I worked in industrial gasses. In the 2010 to 2014 time frame, we built a CO2 flow computer to be used in enhanced oil recovery and carbon sequestration.
I know about the business. It kind of left a sour taste in my mouth because so much of it was being driven by regulation and so much of that was free flowing. By that, I mean it wasn’t yet really mature. I’ve heard a lot about CO2, I’m a skeptic.
When I heard you talk at API, you came at this from a very well-grounded engineering centric, real world, “what’s it going to take” centric place. I found that very interesting and refreshing, frankly.
I think the first question I’d like to ask you, and just give you a little opportunity to talk about, is what’s your view on decarbonization, and where we’re at, and what’s going on?
Chuck: First and foremost, I think my reaction is it is a reality. We’ve evolved as a society, recognizing a lot of the issues associated with what’s often talked about specifically around climate change.
Russel, we could all have a debate about how much of climate change is actually being driven by anthropogenic CO2, and how we are coming at solving problems in this.
There’s a lot of knee jerk reactions to that. There’s a lot of, I would say, misguided focus around whether the fuels are the enemy or whether there’s industry as the enemy. It’s too easily dumbed down to try to find an enemy in the good and trying to be on the side of the good.
We take a step back from all that. I certainly do, personally, and look at it really as what is the definition of energy sustainability. To me, it’s very simple. It’s not just an environmental term by any stretch. It is a term that requires energy to be made available and reliable to people as a first order. That’s not a given around the world by any stretch.
Russel: There’s one word you didn’t put in there that I think ought to be added, is affordable.
Chuck: Well, that’s the second part of the stool. That’s the second leg of the stool. First and foremost, you have to have it available to you, and it has to be reliable. Once it meets that test, it moves to the next step on the ladder, which is affordability. It’s cost competitiveness. It’s the ability for a consumer to afford it or a nation to build an industrial base around it.
You can’t do that with energy that’s not reliable, and you can’t do it with energy that’s not affordable. Those two things, essential. Now, we have this third level and it’s a reality around the world, and that is, I will use the term, carbon intensity.
We’ve been using fossil fuels as a society since the Industrial Revolution. We put more emissions into the atmosphere in the last 200 years than we have in the history of mankind as a being. By the way, we’re going to add another three billion people to the Earth over the next 50 years.
We’re becoming more and more energy intensive every day as a society. From that, I think business as usual, continuing to do it the way we’ve done it, is really not what the world is calling for now. At the same time, the world will insist on reliable and affordable energy.
Therein lies the conundrum. You can’t solve for one or even two of those variables of the three that I just listed and be sustainable. The foundational issue around our Center for Carbon Management is we have to create the magic of technology to enable society to make these changes and do it effectively, efficiently, and sensibly.
Russel: Man, you just said a mouthful.
Chuck: Frankly, from our perspective there’s way too much unsensible thinking in the marketplace these days. We find ourselves in the middle of industries like petrochemicals, oil and gas, electric power, these industries today are fueled by fossil fuels.
Eighty percent of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels. All the projections with all of the growth and energy over the next 50 years, there’s going to be an enormous amount of renewables, an enormous amount of new technologies and things that today, were not in our system.
Even with that, in 50 years, the projections are that 75 percent of the world’s energy will still come from fossil fuels. Your question about decarbonization is the essential element of a future that can be truly sustainable.
Russel: One of the ways you framed this in your presentation at API which I found compelling, was that all those things about fossil fuels are here to stay, most of the world that doesn’t have and want some, and those of us that have them, whether we realize it or not, we rely on them and they’re not going away.
The mix may change, but they are really a reality. They’re part of it. Your point being that, to make that go forward, we have to decarbonize the use of those fuels.
Chuck: Yeah. Russel, I think if people are honest about things, look at the last six months, in a world where energy in our country is ubiquitous largely, and then all of a sudden, guess what? Reliability of the supply of gasoline, the cost of gasoline, and everyone’s eye on the ball on that as a first order problem to be solved in society.
When you have the luxury of affordability and reliability, you can focus on those first world orders around carbon management, carbon intensity, and all these things. I’m going to suggest it’s important. It’s a part of leadership that the developed world can bring.
When you think about two billion people in the world living in some ways in energy poverty and having only so many options available to them, largely coal or oil and gas, well then, you better be able to decarbonize or else you’re going to come up with solutions in your wonderful developed world that aren’t going to move the needle at all globally.
That, to me, is the essential element of what our responsibility is right now, not to just solve our problems that we have on our shoe tops, but to really think about this as a global problem.
Russel: The other frame I have for this, and we talked about this when we got together a few weeks ago as we were prepping for this podcast is, I’m big into scouting. One of the principal things about scouting is to leave no trace.
Certainly, if you go back to the ’70s, there was lots of focus on cleaning up the waterways and cleaning up landfills. We’ve made huge progress in North America in that domain since I was a kid. Now, the focus is on something we’ve not yet managed, which goes to leave no trace.
Whether CO2 is anthropogenic – for the folks listening that don’t know what that means, that means man-made – versus geologic or naturally occurring, doesn’t really matter. I think the point is that proper care of our environment would be, we don’t add to it.
Chuck: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. The other part of it is, so often in our society today, it’s very easy to pick something to demonize. Let’s make something the enemy. Let’s make coal-fired power plants the enemy. Let’s make internal combustion engines in California the enemy by 2035.
You hear these things and it’s like, that’s the solution for the future? I beg to differ. I think that’s way, way over simplified.
Russel: It has all kinds of unintended consequence.
Chuck: It absolutely is. It’s a great example. Great example of what you talked about in leaving no trace behind. In 1900, the number one environmental problem in New York City was what?
Russel: Horse poop.
Chuck: It was horse manure. A million pounds a day on the streets. The internal combustion engine transformed the world and the footprint by moving away from that to where we are today.
Now, today, we look at the future and say, “How can we transform ourselves?” We’re not going to stop using energy. I can guarantee you that. We’re using more of it in an intensity standpoint than we’ve ever done in the history of mankind.
This idea that we’re going to “conserve ourselves” to a carbon-free future is a fool’s errand. It isn’t going to happen. The other thing that I also believe, [laughs] and it’s a little cynical, Russel, but people don’t want to be inconvenienced.
Russel: Oh, no.
Chuck: They don’t want to give up anything, and they don’t want to pay a nickel more, but they want magic. Magic comes from technology that is able to insert itself and make the difference.
I think people have been spoiled by the amount of technology we’ve been able to put into our world, and we’re going to have to continue to enhance that and move it forward, but we can’t run away from things. We’ve got to take things head on and recognize that fossil fuels are part of our future.
Let’s clean them up. We can do it. We’ve done it before. We did it with coal-fired power plants. We did it with gasoline. We’ve done things like that. What we need to do is have the patience, the fortitude, and the investments in the technology magic.
Russel: What is the technology magic when it comes to carbon capture?
Chuck: There’s a couple of them. One is the linchpin to it all, and I think I may have mentioned this in the talk that you’re referring to. That is carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
It is a technology where you’re able to capture CO2 emissions before it goes to the atmosphere, and successfully put that CO2 into deep geologic formations, and store it safely and permanently for hundreds of years into the future, into formations that have been holding oil and natural gas as an example for millions of years.
These are geologically safe and permanent structures that we’re talking about.
The idea around carbon capture utilization is threefold. One, you can capture CO2 from existing facilities, power plants, chemical plants, oil and gas refineries, etc. You can capture that CO2 and not have it be an emission.
The second thing you can do is you can produce hydrogen that’s decarbonized in scale with the costs necessary to realize the hydrogen economy that many people talk about.
You’re not going to do it with electrolyzers, I can tell you that right now. That’s another fool’s errand. You can take CO2 out of hydrogen streams from natural gas that have been reformed. You can produce the scale and commercial quantities of hydrogen to affect a hydrogen economy.
The third thing you can do, and it might be the most important of the three, is we need to be able to produce baseload decarbonized electricity. That’s a value proposition that doesn’t exist unless you’re talking about nuclear. There isn’t any other way to produce it.
When people say we need to build more wind and we need to build more solar, and all these things, I’m not against it. I’m here to tell you that there’s a certain level of penetration – and frankly, we’ve nearly reached that level in Texas already – where we need to augment with baseload reliable power.
If we use CCUS, we can have it be decarbonized. We can have it be carbon free.
Russel: Chuck, if you would, unpack that a little bit. What is baseload carbon free power?
Chuck: First of all, baseload power is power that you can count on and rely on 24/7. It’s not dependent on whether the sun’s shining or the wind’s blowing. It’s dependent upon an operating condition that allows you to be on stream 24/7. That’s baseload.
If you take a baseload facility, like a coal plant or a natural gas combined cycle facility, you can add carbon capture utilization and storage on the backend of that plant, capture the CO2 before it comes in emission, and you can safely and permanently store that CO2 into those geologic formations.
Voila, you’ve created a new value proposition, which is baseload power that’s 100 percent decarbonized. It’s really a technological magic that will transform our ability to get our power systems to the levels of decarbonization that are being talked about.
I’m here to tell you, it’s not going to come from battery storage. It’s not going to come from all these other nonsensical descriptions of how we’re going to move forward when people are wishing and hoping. We need to take a look at the technologies and the understanding of what we have, put them in place, broadly deploy it, and get on with decarbonization.
Russel: It sounds easy if you say it fast, Chuck.
Chuck: It’s not easy, it’s hard, Russel. It’s hard, and then people say, “Well, it’s too expensive.” I often say, “Too expensive compared to what?” We’ve been subsidizing some of these other alternatives.
Russel: This is something else you talked about at API. You went through your presentation, you had the numbers for it and everything, I really thought that was interesting.
You started looking at what is the real economic cost of wind, solar, and other kinds of renewable energies versus what’s the real cost of power with carbon capture. What you find out is, if you get rid of all the subsidies, power with carbon capture is cheaper.
Chuck: It is in a position where carbon capture utilization and storage can be deployed broadly, the Gulf Coast is a great example of that. It is the solution that will be preferable.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that carbon capture utilization storage is great for everybody everywhere. It’s not. It’s very dependent upon conditions, much like its condition to be for solar, as an example.
You want to have a lot of sunlight, you want to have a lot of exposure to that. Do you know what country in the world has more solar panels deployed per square inch than any country in the world? It’s Germany. I’ve never been to a more dreary country. There’s never sunshine in Germany when I’ve been there.
You look at these misguided policies where governments try to insert things that are a square peg into a round hole, and it doesn’t yield the results that you’re looking for. Similarly with the overbuilt wind that is in Germany today, and the fact that power costs have doubled in the past 15 years, and the amount of CO2 going to the atmosphere in Europe is far more than it is in the United States.
We’ve decarbonized through the use of natural gas and a lot of other things that we’ve done here, but this idea that installing wind and solar is the answer to everything, it’s not true. It’s part of the solution. It’s not to be dismissed, by any stretch, but I think it’s also important to recognize, you can’t do one thing and solve everything. You need to have the full portfolio of capabilities.
That’s where carbon capture utilization and storage comes in, Russel. It’s so critical to be able to provide that. Technology is now working on turbines that will actually operate on hydrogen, not on natural gas being combusted. Then you would say to yourself, well, that’s going to stop natural gas usage. No, it won’t. Natural gas will need to be reformed to make that hydrogen.
In the process of reforming the natural gas to make the hydrogen, you capture the CO2 with CCUS, and you have decarbonized hydrogen that’s going into those units. This is what people often refer to as “green hydrogen.” That’s a bit of a misnomer. I don’t like to use colors, I use one term, decarbonized.
If you can take natural gas-based hydrogen, decarbonize it with CCUS, it’s every bit as good and frankly, better than the electrolysis units, because it’s at a much larger scale and a much lower cost.
Russel: That’s the other thing that again, you walked through in your presentation. You really went through the kind of scale some of these projects were operating at, and the economics of those projects at those scales.
The thing I’ve found compelling of it’s like, this is the first time I’ve heard somebody talk about decarbonization, and they were talking about it as a massive engineering challenge…
Chuck: It is.
Russel: …not as a political or behavioral challenge. It’s neither of those things, it’s an engineering challenge.
Chuck: Absolutely. Just to bring it home to square for perhaps your audience, it also requires a tremendous amount of infrastructural support. Pipelines as the prime example of that, the National Petroleum Council Study came to a conclusion that today in America, we have about 5,000 miles of CO2 pipeline, far more than anywhere else in the world, by the way, but 5,000 miles.
If we’re truly going to do broad commercial deployment of CCUS, we’re going to need 50,000 miles of pipe because we’re going to need to take sources and connect them to sinks, and do this effectively. We can’t do it if we can’t get a permit.
We can’t do it if we don’t understand that this is for the good of the public, it’s not something that we should have environmental groups standing up and stopping. We should have environmental groups getting behind it and supporting it.
If you truly want to decarbonize the world, you need to get behind technologies to do that, not fight things because you have some sort of a problem with the fuel that you start with. At the end of the day, it’s not about the fuel, it’s about the emissions, what are we going to do to get them down as fast as we can? It is an engineering challenge.
We’re going to need those pipes. We’re going to need pipes in hydrogen as well, similar type of a big strategy here.
Your viewers here, your group that you’re speaking to, that was really my whole pitch at the API, was that this pipeline industry has got an enormous growth curve in front of it. It’s going to be challenging, yes, but it’s going to require an awful lot of steel and an awful lot of engineering support.
Russel: A lot of new tech around that steel to deal with hydrogen and CO2 because they’re different fluids, they have different properties, they behave differently, we need different practices to contain them. We need different practices to mitigate risk because they’re so different. There’s a lot packed up in all that.
In terms of carbon capture transportation and sequestration, where are we? What is the state of things, state of projects, etc., today?
Chuck: Absent getting into politics about the latest bill…
Russel: Yeah, let’s not go there.
Chuck: …I’m not going to go there. What I will say is, in the latest bill, there was an extension of wind and solar production tax credits and investment tax credits, a recognition that we want to continue to promote those technologies and support them.
I’m not going to suggest that’s an all bad idea, but I will put this in play with everybody. That government’s support of new technologies is supposed to be for new technologies. These credits and this structure has been in place for over 25 years. We continue to extend them because without them, those industries are still not able to stand on their two feet.
By the way, they claim to be the lowest cost energy solution that’s available to society, and in the same breath, continue to require the tax credits so that we can deploy this technology, which is a little strange. I don’t understand it, but again, that’s all part of how you’re able to move your industries forward.
Leaving that aside, new technologies, windmills have been around since Christ walked the Earth, so this isn’t exactly new technology. It’s being refined. It’s improving, I’ll give you that, but I think the fundamentals of it and the overall solution of the Holy Grail, again, going back to the fundamentals, you need to have a portfolio of capabilities.
Let me speak specifically to CCUS. There is a structure around tax credits associated with CCUS. There was a credit in place previously, $50 a ton for every ton that’s stored, and $35 a ton for every credit that was utilized in enhanced oil recovery and then also permanently stored.
This credit has been moved up, recognizing that this technology again, needs to be supported just like we’ve supported wind and solar for the last 25 years, I might add, putting things on a level playing field, and then enabling this technology to move forward.
It’s now $85 a ton for storage and $60 a ton for enhanced oil recovery. That regimen is going to promote the investments, and we’re already seeing it here.
Russel: I’m close enough to that, that I’m aware of companies like Denbury and others that have been in this game for some time. They’ve been positioning for this for a long time. It definitely has some viability.
Chuck: Again, it gets back to the fundamentals. You mentioned earlier in this discussion how much of the early work that was done was being promoted by government grants and technology demonstrations.
It’s now being driven by companies that have made net-zero pledges by 2050 to their shareholders and investors. It’s companies that are participating in global markets where lower carbon-intensity products that can be put on the global market will have a competitive advantage.
These companies are doing it because they’ve made a commitment to move forward, not because the government is hammering them to do it. That’s really a big difference. The government is providing the convening and the support in terms of promoting the technologies and providing the capabilities for these to move forward, but it’s not a done deal at this point.
If we’re still having conversations about getting pipe and line right-of-ways, and we’re still having conversations about long-term pour space ownership in different states, etc., and creating those market construct barriers for the rapid deployment of this technology, we’re not doing ourselves a favor. That’s going to be one of the big challenges, I think, around the corner.
Russel: I agree with you, Chuck. I think that’s where we are. We have the technology. We know how to deploy the technology at scale. The primary obstacle at this point is getting the projects permitted and built. That’s the primary challenge.
Chuck: It’s the market construct around, first and foremost, the investments necessary even on the front end of projects. Defining them, and developing some type of a risk profile that’s understandable, and being able to then create something that will provide the returns that companies will look at.
When I say that, I don’t mean simply financial returns. I’m talking about holistic returns to the company. Again, going back to shareholders, going back to the pledges that are being made, and the positioning of companies.
That’s something that’s probably worth thinking about, Russel. That is, all energy companies are not created equal.
You’ve got the big majors that are positioning themselves as energy companies. You’ve got smaller, independent operators that right now are taking advantage of $90 a barrel oil, and I could argue may not be all that interested in worrying about ESG, and corporate social responsibility, and all this other stuff related to carbon management, because right now, people are focused on getting their oil out of the ground and making a lot of money.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with that, but I think it’s important to recognize different companies with a longer and shorter term view, different kinds of shareholders, different kinds of ways they’re positioning themselves. We can’t look at the energy industry as a homogeneous group of companies. They’re very different.
Russel: That’s actually one of the strengths of the US, is the fact that we have that kind of model. It makes us rather unique in the world.
It allows us to have this interesting paradox between the smaller, private equity-backed, innovative guys that tend to figure out new technology and make it commercially viable, and the big guys that are running multibillion-dollar-a-year projects and 25-year, 50-year business plans.
It’s a very interesting combination when you have both those things in your economy for sure.
Chuck: You bet.
Russel: I think it’s going to be interesting to watch. You’re right that reality is reducing carbon impact is going to be a continuing conversation for a long time. I agree with you 100 percent. Oil and gas and pipelining is a key part of the long-term energy strategy for the world. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
If you were going to recommend something for people to read or use as a reference to hear your pitch, what would you tell them to go look for or read?
Chuck: There’s a lot of sources. Let me be a little self-serving here, Russel, if I could.
Russel: Yes, please do. That was the reason for the question. [laughs]
Chuck: Thank you. Our Center for Carbon Management is under the umbrella of the University of Houston Energy. If you go to our website, you can go directly to our Center for Carbon Management. You can see the companies that are involved, the technologies that are involved with, the white papers that we’ve created in terms of the policies and business perspectives, etc.
Then what would be heartwarming for many of the folks on this call that may not be part of companies that are involved with us, but we have a consortia we’re running on behalf of the Southern States Energy Board and the Department of Energy where we have over 60 companies that are in this consortia all dedicated to one thing: the broad commercial deployment of CCUS.
These companies are engaged. We’ve had several working group activities that will continue on going forward because the industry is 100 percent behind this.
The proceedings, the outcomes, the things that are going on in those groups, etc., I think using our website is the key way to be able to direct people’s, first of all, initial focus, and then pathways to other sources, other documents, other things that people can stay a part of.
A great example is the National Petroleum Council study. It is a voluminous report, but it’s available online. It’s a matter of public record. It’s a lot to digest. What we’ve done at the university, actually, is we’ve had several symposiums where we’ve taken pieces of that, unpacked them, had panel sessions, etc.
If people out there are interested in the Center for Carbon Management at the University of Houston, what you’ll find is a university based on the principles of what we’ve just discussed here in this last hour.
You can find a lot of universities around the country that aren’t based on that premise. I’ll say no more about that, but I will tell you, we embrace being the energy university in the energy capital of the world, with decarbonization as our thrust going forward.
Russel: Well listen, Chuck, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your passion and your insight about this whole subject of carbon intensity and reducing carbon impact, and giving it, I want to say, more of a grounded perspective in the reality of the engineering, the market, and all those things that we know are required to work for things like this to turn out.
Thanks for being on board. We’ll link up in the show notes these resources that Chuck mentioned. If you want to find the University of Houston Center for Energy, you can find it through our Pipeline Podcast Network website, or I’m sure you just Google it and find it just as easily that way as well.
Chuck: We’ll get those links provided to you. I think also what will come from that, you mentioned things to read, we have had a number of published white papers. We’ve done a series of research activities over the past summer that will be coming out within the fall, looking at life cycle analysis in a number of different areas.
Not to digress too much, but its carbon capture utilization and storage, it’s the electricity grid, it’s transportation, but also, it’s the workforce, the workforce of the future, the reskilling of existing workers, and finally, all of the financial incentives and constructs necessary for successful things in the marketplace.
Our intention is to take this research and provide some thoughtful feedstock for our legislators in the coming session next spring in Austin. We’re hoping to provide the kind of analysis, rather than just opinions, but actually, fact-based data that can support positions related to good energy choices.
That’s what we’re trying to do, and that’s in short supply, Russel.
Russel: It’s in short supply and dang hard to find amidst all the other noise. That’s really the reason I wanted to get you on, because I think the information you have is well grounded in that kind of rationality. Again, it’s been awesome and I sure do appreciate it.
Chuck: Well, I appreciate the platform and your gracious invitation anytime.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Chuck. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI Tumbler. Simply visit PipelinePodcastNetwork.com/Win, and enter yourself in the drawing.
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Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics, you’d be interested in, please let me know either on the contact us page at PipelinePodcastNetwork.com or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords