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Japan, U.S. to partner on carbon capture and storage

The Japanese and U.S. governments will partner on a technology that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by power plants that use fossil fuels such as coal and store the greenhouse gas underground. A public and private group is to be formed to further the project. Companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and JXTG Holdings from Japan and Exon Mobile from the U.S. are expected to participate. Both governments aim to advance the technology to serve businesses in Texas and the Middle East.


Both Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to meet in Washington on October 16 for the second round of Japan-US Economic Dialogue. The CO2-recovery-related partnership is expected to be incorporated in the joint statement to be announced at the end of the talks.


The technology to isolate, capture, and store CO2 is called carbon capture and storage, or CCS. It is the process of using pipelines to transport CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere from power plants using fossil fuels and injecting the gas into old oil wells. The crude oil in the wells is pushed out under pressure, thereby permanently storing the CO2 underground. The U.S. has succeeded in commercializing this technology as the increased production of crude oil leads to additional revenue. While the rise in oil consumption will lead to greater CO2 emissions, there will still be an overall reduction in greenhouse gas of around 40 to 50% of.


The bilateral public-private group will discuss ways to jointly develop a business that caters to potential clients in the U.S., the Middle East, and other developing nations, expanding on the business model set forth by a joint venture of Japanese and American firms formed in December 2016 in Texas. Although costly technological challenges remain in isolating and collecting CO2 gases with CCS, the partnership is aimed at expediting technological innovation to address these issues.


The Paris climate agreement proposed to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Despite global advancements in antiwarming policies such as promotion of renewable energy and energy conservation, it is believed that some CO2 emissions will be inevitable through thermal power generation and steel manufacturing plants.


CCS can prevent the release of CO2 into the atmosphere and offset emissions from thermal power generation to virtually zero levels. According to the International Energy Agency, CCS would account for 13% of the necessary greenhouse gas reductions by 2050. Although President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, his administration has expressed interest in remaining engaged in climate change and energy conservation initiatives.


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