I am not surprised for either the concentration or that LSU is leading the way. Carbon capture is the new phase in oil.

LSU announced last month it became the first university in the country to offer a formal concentration in carbon capture, utilization and storage — a technology lauded by state leaders and industry experts despite recent controversy in the public eye — through its petroleum engineering department. Carbon capture and sequestration is a process in which carbon output from a plant is captured, compressed and sent via pipeline deep underground to be stored, rather than emitted into the atmosphere. The technology has grown in popularity in recent years after Congress approved $3.5 billion to support carbon capture and sequestration projects as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Louisiana in particular has become a hotbed for these projects because of its ideal geological conditions and preexisting industrial infrastructure and expertise, according to Karsten Thompson, chair of the LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering. “This is an emerging field that we believe is going to be really big,” Thompson said. “It meshes with a lot of [students] that are growing up at a time where they’re more aware of the environment and want to do something about the climate.”

I presume other engineering majors can take it but it fits right into what the governor wants.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has been a staunch proponent of the technology as well, saying it’s a necessary step to transition away from fossil fuels. “As I’ve said many times, I believe in the safety and the science that underlies carbon capture and sequestration. I know it is an essential part not just to our climate action plan here in Louisiana to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but really the plans for our country and the world,” Edwards said during a call-in radio show Dec. 21. In LSU’s concentration, students can take classes in underground geological storage, natural gas engineering and geophysics in addition to the typical curriculum, like drilling technology and reservoir simulation. Thompson explained that many of the skills learned in the department transfer easily over to carbon capture projects. “We’ve got all the experience of drilling thousands of feet down, whether it’s offshore, onshore, in a shale or in the sandstones,” Thompson said. “There’s differences for the CO2, but it’s kind of in our wheelhouse to do all that part of it.”

There are students in the concentration now with some to graduate in May. Petroleum companies have indicated the wioll hire them.

Seventeen students are currently enrolled in the CCUS concentration, four of whom are expected to graduate in May. Thompson said his department made the decision to add the curriculum after companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron expressed interest in hiring students with CCS expertise. “Everybody we talked to was really eager to have students with that expertise graduating straight out of school, so that encouraged us to give that opportunity,” he said. The technology hasn’t come without controversy. Environmental groups have criticized the method as an expensive, ineffective means of prolonging the fossil fuel industry rather than investing in technology for renewable energy. Some Louisiana residents who live near upcoming projects have voiced fear for their safety. One such project is a $4.5-billion hydrogen manufacturing plant slated for Ascension Parish by Air Products, a global gas supply company. The plant’s carbon waste will be compressed into a liquid and shot through a 37-mile pipeline below Lake Maurepas. Residents in Livingston, Tangipahoa, St. John the Baptist and elsewhere have shown up in droves to meetings in recent months to protest the operation. Some worry the pipeline will rupture, much like the one in Statartia, Mississippi, that hospitalized nearly 50 people. Others fear the seismic tests and injection wells will kill off the ecosystem. Many point to previous examples of major industries coming in and creating disaster.

There may be opposition but the procedure usually wins in the end.

Local governments’ efforts to keep out carbon capture projects have appeared fruitless. Livingston Parish enacted a moratorium against injection wells last fall to keep Air Products and another carbon capture project out, but that effort proved unsuccessful after the company sued the parish and successfully won a preliminary injunction. The company and Livingston Parish agreed to settle shortly after. Thompson said the petroleum engineering department will continue to adapt its curriculum as industry and its technology changes — he said someday it’ll likely drop the name “petroleum engineering” entirely for a more appropriate name like geosystems engineering. “I think everybody expects that the world’s use of petroleum will decline sometime in the future,” Thompson said. “It’s a matter of what’s that time horizon and adjusting to fit that. At some point down the road, we’ll probably be the Department of whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Geo-something engineering.”

While I agree it is prolonging drilling, it also is working to remove harmful products. It is a new process that we don’t know what the final results will be.

A new concentration at LSU – first in the country
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