The growth of carbon capture, utilization and storage will require a well-trained workforce. Fittingly, the oil and gas industry and its employees are some of the best equipped to succeed in this field.
“There are real synergies between the oil and CCUS industries; the geology, infrastructure, and regulatory requirements for both are similar. This suggests that states which have excelled at extracting carbon from the subsurface might be able to develop a thriving industry putting it back underground. It also means that many well-paid employees in the oil industry should be able find a job in CCUS without having to uproot their lives by moving to a different part of the country or investing in a new career training program.”
Reservoirs that once held oil and natural gas are ideal places to store CO2. Geologists and geophysicists can apply the same skills used to characterize oil fields to mapping subsurface storage sites. Injecting CO2 into the ground may require equipment and techniques similar to what petroleum engineers already use to extract fuel.
According to patent research firm Patent Seekers, oil companies have received the largest number of carbon capture patents in recent years, ahead of government agencies and research institutes, universities and engineering and tech companies.
In these cases, the best training will come from institutions with a deep and storied history in resource extraction and the earth sciences. Colorado School of Mines, for example, has consistently ranked among the best universities in the world for its petroleum engineering and mining engineering programs. Related programs—geology, geophysics, civil engineering, underground construction and tunneling and more—are highly regarded as well.
Succeeding in CCUS and moving the discipline forward, however, will require new techniques and technology, as well as advances in policy. Mines’ fully online graduate certificate in carbon capture, utilization and storage, for example, harnesses the expertise of at least eight academic departments to help professionals strengthen and expand their knowledge.
“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. “But right now, no programs exist that cover the entire value chain of CCUS, nor the economic and policy impacts of this vital field.”
The program benefits from the Mines Integrated Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Initiative, launched in September 2020, which brings together more than 40 researchers tackling carbon capture in a variety of disciplines.
“There’s a lot of momentum right now,” said Laura Singer, program manager for the Mines CCUS Initiative. “The work that is going on at Mines has been happening for a long time already, but it was siloed in different departments instead of into an integrated approach,” she said.
“As a public university with a strong emphasis on applied research and educating students to help lead the energy future, Mines is actively engaged in multiple aspects of the CCUS chain,” said John Bradford, a geophysicist and vice president of global initiatives at Mines. “Our faculty provide relevant expertise that spans from fundamental chemistry to subsurface reservoir evaluation to reactor engineering, and we cultivate a collaborative working environment across disciplines.”
While the CCUS certificate gives students an advantage in the field, they can also apply those credits toward a master’s degree in any of the participating departments and further burnish their credentials.