Skip to content
Garrow Wessendorf January 19, 2024 5 min read

Carbon Capture Permit Surge: Implications for Oil and Gas

This year marks a significant shift in the carbon storage permit landscape. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported a remarkable surge in applications for carbon dioxide injection wells - over twice the number filed in the previous two years.

The permit surge, predominantly in areas like the Gulf Coast, West Texas, New Mexico, and California, signals an increasing focus on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an avenue for future growth in the oil and gas industry. While this represents a significant area of opportunity, it’s important to acknowledge that it also comes with its own set of headwinds.

Navigating the Political and Regulatory Landscape of CCS Permit Approvals

The influx of permits has led to a substantial backlog at the EPA, with almost 170 carbon capture wells awaiting decisions. Notably, no projects have been approved since early 2021, despite the two-year decision guideline set by the EPA, according to a recent report by the Houston Chronicle.

The oil and gas industry faces a significant challenge from this backlog of permits. These delays, rooted in complex regulatory processes, require a deep understanding and ability to adapt. Doing so will unlock the full potential of CCS and allow for continued momentum in this growing area of investment.

Bipartisan Concerns Over Slow Permitting Pace

The slow pace of carbon storage permit approvals by the EPA has become a point of bipartisan criticism. Both Republicans and Democrats are voicing concerns, questioning the Biden administration’s commitment to carbon capture technology.

This apprehension stems from the growing gap between the administration’s reported goals for carbon capture expansion and the actual rate of permit approvals. Nearly two-and-a-half years without a single approval raises significant questions about meeting U.S. climate goals and the administration’s alignment with its own calls for increased carbon capture deployment.

EPA’s Challenges in Scaling Up

Amid this political pressure, the EPA is actively working to address the backlog. The agency has expanded its team reviewing carbon storage wells from seven to 34 people. However, the complexity of these applications, involving projects that span thousands of feet underground and cross geologic faults, necessitates a careful and technically thorough review process.

This meticulous approach, essential for environmental and public health safety, further contributes to the slow pace of permit issuance. For the oil and gas industry, this signifies a need for patience and understanding of the delicate balance between regulatory thoroughness and industry progress in carbon capture and storage.

Strategic Concentration of CCS Projects in Key Regions

The current surge in carbon capture applications is not randomly distributed but strategically concentrated in regions with specific advantages. These areas, chosen for their existing infrastructure and potential, are pivotal in shaping the CCS landscape.

Gulf Coast and Permian Basin: Pioneering Carbon Hubs

The Gulf Coast, along with the Permian Basin, is seeing an influx of CCS projects. The appeal lies in the established oil and gas infrastructure in these regions, which can be repurposed for carbon storage.

The vision for these areas is ambitious, aiming to transform it into a network of carbon hubs. This evolution speaks to a broader industry trend of leveraging existing facilities and expertise for innovative carbon management solutions.

Midwest Ethanol Plants: A Bioenergy-CCS Nexus

In the Midwest, the integration of CCS with ethanol production highlights a unique intersection of bioenergy and carbon management. Ethanol plants, with their significant carbon emissions, present an opportune setting for deploying CCS technology. The integration is a promising step toward more sustainable bioenergy practices, showcasing adaptive strategies in carbon management.

California: State Policies Driving CCS Initiatives

California’s proactive state policies are a key driver in its CCS project development. The state’s regulatory environment, focused on reducing emissions and promoting sustainable energy practices, is encouraging the growth of CCS initiatives. This approach mirrors a larger trend where state policies are becoming critical in steering the direction of CCS development, especially in regions committed to aggressive climate goals.

The Value of CCS in Oil and Gas: Sustainability and Growth

Carbon capture and carbon storage are rapidly emerging as a strategic investment for the oil and gas industry. The recent surge in permit applications, particularly in regions with substantial oil and gas operations, underlines the industry’s recognition of CCS as key to its future sustainability and growth.

The trend also reflects a broader industry shift toward integrating environmental stewardship into core business strategies. In this context, CCS emerges as a key solution to reducing carbon footprints while maintaining energy production.

Economic Potential and Job Creation within CCS

As we consider the role of CCS in enhancing sustainability, it’s equally important to explore its economic potential. The same commitment driving environmental stewardship is opening doors to significant economic and job creation opportunities.

For example, the economic potential of CCS is significant, especially considering the scale and concentration of current projects. The first of Oxy’s Direct Air Capture facilities in West Texas, expected to capture 500,000 tons of CO2 annually, represents just one of many such initiatives.

The development of CCS hubs in Texas, Louisiana, and other regions anticipates a ripple effect of employment opportunities, spanning from the technical workforce required for CCS operations to ancillary roles supporting these large-scale projects. This paints a picture of CCS not just as an environmental solution, but as a driver of economic activity and job creation within the oil and gas sector.

CCS: A Cornerstone in Meeting Climate Goals

As we’ve seen, CCS is not just an emerging trend. It’s a critical component in the global effort to achieve climate goals. The oil and gas industry stands at a crossroads, where the adoption of CCS technologies can significantly mitigate environmental impacts while maintaining energy production.

The current backlog in permit approvals, while a bottleneck, underscores the need for a balanced approach. Streamlining these processes is essential, but not at the expense of environmental stewardship. It’s about finding that sweet spot where regulatory efficiency meets thorough environmental safety.

The Panther Companies: Pioneering Environmental Solutions

In this evolving landscape, The Panther Companies stands out with its expertise in drilling fluids and environmental stewardship. Our experience positions us uniquely to contribute to the development and efficiency of CCS projects. Our expertise in drilling fluids management and solids control dovetails perfectly with the precision needed in CCS operations, leading to both operational success and environmental integrity.

As industry leaders, it’s time to join forces with service providers like Panther. By collaborating, we can advance CCS projects more effectively, harnessing our collective expertise to meet climate goals while driving economic growth. Let’s work together to push the boundaries of what’s possible in CCS, creating a sustainable future for our industry and the planet.

Garrow Wessendorf

President and CEO