Colorado School of Mines Graduate School Insights

Industry outlook and the future of jobs in carbon capture

Smokestack emitting smokeAccording to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, carbon capture, utilization and storage technology will be essential to meeting long-term climate targets.

Under the International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Development Scenario, for example, CO2 sequestration would need to reach 2.8 gigatons per year by 2050 in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This would require a 100-fold increase in facilities in operation around the world.

In the United States, the Biden administration’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan is “the largest investment proposal to commercialize carbon management technologies ever put forward by a single government,” according to the Clean Air Task Force. The organization says the plan could grow the nation’s carbon management capacity 13-fold by 2035 and create tens of thousands of jobs, while allowing traditionally high-emissions American industries—cement, steel, chemical and others—to remain environmentally sustainable and continue providing needed employment.

The federal Energy Act of 2020, among other initiatives, calls for the establishment of a research and program to examine the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere at a large scale. It also requires the funding of pre-commercial and commercial direct air capture projects and establishes a Carbon Dioxide Removal Task Force to advise the secretary of energy. In addition, the legislation extends the “45Q” tax credit eligibility for sequestration projects.

According to a report by the independent research firm Rhodium Group, released April 2021, capital investment to retrofit facilities for carbon capture will create up to 64,000 jobs over the next 15 years. Up to 43,000 more jobs will be created for the operations of these facilities. The report estimates up to 131,000 jobs will be created after 2035 from both capital investment and retrofit operations.

Learn what carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies are in use and under development »

The report is one of three commissioned by the Great Plains Institute on the economic benefits of carbon capture.

Some notable CCUS efforts include one by Summit Carbon Solutions, a company out of Ames, Iowa, which has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest in what they claim to be the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project. In July 2021, the company announced an investment from John Deere that will accelerate decarbonization in the agricultural industry and enable the production of low-carbon ethanol.

The same month, Shell Canada announced plans to build a large-scale carbon capture and storage project near Edmonton as part of its efforts to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050. The Polaris CCS project is expected to have a storage capacity of 300 million tons of CO2 over its lifetime.


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One company that has been receiving a lot of attention is Switzerland’s Climeworks, which specializes in capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air. Their technology works by pulling air into collectors using fans. The CO2 is then captured on the surface of a filter made of a highly selective materials; once full, the collector is sealed off and heated to release the CO2. The high-purity, high-concentration carbon dioxide can then be recycled and used as raw material or stored. In addition, Climeworks’ direct air capture machines only use renewable energy or energy from waste.

In September 2021, the company opened what it claims is the largest carbon capture plant of its kind, in Iceland. Climeworks says the Orca will be able to capture 4,000 metric tons of CO2 every year and increases the global capacity for the technology by more than 40%. At this new facility, the plant runs on geothermal energy and the CO2 is dissolved in water and pumped deep into Iceland’s volcanic rock.

“We are proud, excited, and beyond delighted to have arrived at this stage in our journey to reverse climate change,” said Climeworks co-CEO and cofounder Christoph Gebald. “Orca is now a reality and it is a result of concerted efforts from every stakeholder involved. I want to take this opportunity to convey my gratitude and appreciation to the Government of Iceland, our partners in Iceland, our trusted investors, our corporate clients and pioneers, partners, the media, and our team of Climeworkers in making Orca a reality.’’

Getting in on the ground floor of this industry will require comprehensive, interdisciplinary training. Colorado School of Mines’ online graduate certificate in carbon capture, utilization and storage, for example, is the first of its kind, and combines the expertise of faculty in geophysics, geology, petroleum engineering, chemical and biological engineering, chemistry, mining engineering, computer science and economics and business.

“Given the recent climate bill, announcements by oil companies to cut fossil fuels, focus on carbon utilization and storage, and innovative utilization of carbon, there is an urgent need for a formal training on carbon capture, utilization and storage,” said Manika Prasad, professor of geophysics and director of the Mines CCUS Innovation Center.

Looking to work in CCUS? Here’s what you need to know »

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Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage

Learn new tools in the fight against carbon emissions and climate change

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Petroleum Engineering

Help meet society's energy needs, sustainably, with a degree from one of the world's top programs

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Petroleum Data Analytics

Gain a comprehensive overview of the fundamental building blocks of the digital oilfield

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Petroleum Reservoir Systems

Expand your professional opportunities with deeper knowledge in geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering

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Petroleum Geophysics

Develop a solid foundation and proficiency in the latest geophysical methods used in the energy industry

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