Although carbon capture projects have stumbled lately, oil companies buy carbon dioxide, usually in individual transactions, for a process known as enhanced oil recovery, in which carbon dioxide is pumped into the ground to force extra oil out of the fields. But naturally occurring carbon is in decline, and there is more demand than can be met, said Ann E. Banks, chief commercial officer of the Summit Power Group, which is developing a project that will pipe carbon dioxide captured from gasified coal to help extract oil in West Texas.
The Department of Energy is therefore looking into the potential for developing the other carbon market. In the conference’s keynote address, Richard Kauffman, a senior adviser to Steven Chu, the secretary of energy, said that such a market could play an important role in increasing domestic oil production and lowering emissions. There are other uses, too, like feeding algae, which can produce biofuel; stimulating plant growth in greenhouses; and turning it into a coolant for air conditioners.
“Imagine a market developing – a commercial market — for CO2,” he said, adding, “We might find that there are a lot of uses for it.”