Corpus Christi, Texas, is ground zero for CO₂ storage buildout in oil & gas region

Corpus Christi, Texas, is ground zero for CO₂ storage buildout in oil & gas region

June 20, 2024

In the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, the largest oil export port in the U.S., local officials, oil and gas companies, state agencies, and universities are planning to build one of the nation’s largest hubs to capture, use, and store carbon dioxide (CO₂). The effort, backed by federal funding, would in theory reduce the amount of CO₂ that local industries emit to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.  

In January 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $16.4 million to the Port of Corpus Christi to conduct a feasibility study for carbon storage projects. The Port has announced partnerships with several companies and Texas A&M University to further explore carbon capture, use, and storage within the region and facilitate connections between CO₂ emitters and companies that use or store CO₂.  

The Port’s project is one of 33 across the U.S. that will get funding under the federal Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise Initiative, or CarbonSAFE. The 2023 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes a combined $3.5 billion to accelerate the deployment of several regional direct air capture hubs that can suck CO₂ directly out of the atmosphere, rather than capturing it from industrial exhaust. This includes the proposed South Texas Direct Air Capture Hub in Kleberg County, Texas, just outside of Corpus Christi.  

In 2021, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority and the Texas General Land Office (the state agency responsible for managing state-owned lands and mineral rights) signed a memorandum of understanding stating their intent to co-develop a “large-scale [carbon capture and storage] management hub,” including infrastructure to transport and store CO₂ captured in the Port of Corpus Christi area, home to multiple oil refineries, chemical manufacturers, export terminals, and other large CO₂ sources.  

The CO₂ projects proposed in the Corpus Christi area, which include the two Port-led projects and a joint venture between Oxy and Enbridge, call for multiple pipelines to transport CO₂ and several underground CO₂ storage sites on land and in shallow coastal waters (scroll down for a full list of projects).The planning for CO₂ capture and storage marks a new phase of the oil and gas industry in Texas, a state with a long history of incentivizing and encouraging oil and gas extraction. The Texas Gulf Coast is mottled with pipelines, refineries, and petrochemical plants, having seen a massive expansion of the fossil fuel industry in recent years. Jeff Pollack, the Port’s chief strategy and sustainability officer, said “the Port is uniquely suited geographically and commercially to become the nation’s premier hub for carbon management capture and storage.”

Despite the promises oil and gas companies and others make about their projects, community advocates, environmental groups, and researchers remain highly skeptical of CO₂ sequestration development at the Port of Corpus Christi and the surrounding Gulf region.  

A recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) argues that the technology is expensive and unproven, with pilot projects repeatedly underdelivering on emission reduction promises. Offshore projects, including those currently being pushed forward by the Port and elsewhere throughout the Gulf of Mexico (detailed further below), pose particular threats. Injecting CO₂ under the seabed presents “uncalculated risks and untested monitoring challenges,” according to the CIEL report. Leakage from pipelines and underwater storage sites, explosions, and blowouts threaten an ecosystem that is already taxed from decades of oil and gas development.

Implementing onshore and offshore CO₂ capture, utilization, and storage demands an enormous buildout of new infrastructure, and the full extent of the associated environmental and health threats to surrounding communities are poorly understood. The expansion of CO₂ infrastructure could introduce new pollution sources and safety hazards in communities already living with the impacts of the oil and gas industry, many of which are predominantly low-income or people of color.  

For example, the community within two miles of the proposed CO₂ pipeline affiliated with one of the Port of Corpus Christi’s projects (map below) is estimated to be 40 percent low-income and 66 percent people of color—both above national averages—according to EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening Tool. In response to another recently proposed climate rule from the Biden Administration incentivizing CO₂ infrastructure development, Ozawa Bineshi Albert, co-executive director at the Climate Justice Alliance, states that “if we are to combat climate change, we must do so with real, viable solutions – not unproven technologies that only promise to continue the legacy of dumping pollutants onto frontline communities.”

The proposed route of the Coastal Bend CCS Pipeline, as seen in the above map from a Port of Corpus Christi presentation. This surrounding community within 2 miles is estimated to be made of up 40 percent  low-income people and 63 percent people of color, according to EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening Tool. For more information, visit the Existing and Proposed CO₂ Pipelines Mapping Tool.  

The debate over the future of CO₂ capture is not unique to Corpus Christi, with Department of Energy funding set to fuel other similar CO₂ hubs around the country.

For example, the Southern States Energy Board, a coalition of governors and state legislators from 16 southern states, is partnering with Titan Florida, Advanced Resources International, Florida International University, and Virginia Tech to establish a regional carbon storage hub in South Florida. The project, named the Atlantic Coast CO₂ Emissions Storage Sink (Project ACCESS), is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s CarbonSAFE Phase II Program.  

In Virginia, the state’s Department of Energy is partnering with Advanced Resources International, Crescent Resource Innovations, Oklahoma State University, and others to explore the feasibility of a proposed CO₂ storage hub project in Wise County, in southwest Virginia. The project also received federal funding from the Department of Energy’s CarbonSAFE program.  

These are just two examples of the dozens of carbon sequestration projects that have received federal funding. Below are some of the proposed CO₂ projects and partnerships at the Port of Corpus Christi and surrounding areas.

Coastal Bend Carbon Management Project and Coastal Bend Offshore Carbon Storage

The Coastal Bend Carbon Management Project is the onshore component of the Port of Corpus Christi and partners’ CO₂ management plans.  The Port of Corpus Christi has announced a partnership with Howard Energy Partners, Talos Energy, and Texas A&M University to conduct the feasibility and routing analysis, which is expected to span from October 2023 until September 2025, for the proposed project. The project would include multiple underground storage sites across 13,000 acres, with an estimated storage capacity between 50 and 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.  

The project would establish connections between industrial sites in the area, including the Javelina Gas Plant, an existing facility in Corpus Christi that has announced plans to add carbon capture and sequestration. Other associated facilities can be seen on the map below, including the Citgo Corpus Christi East Refinery and Cheniere’s liquified natural gas export terminal. The project proposal also includes the construction of a new CO₂ pipeline.  

Map from Port of Corpus Christi presentation on the Coastal Bend Carbon Management Project.

The Coastal Bend Offshore Carbon Storage project is the offshore portion of the project funded by the Department of Energy. In collaboration with 1845 Carbon Storage, Strategic Sequestration Development, and the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority intends to conduct a 24-month feasibility study to define, assess, and advance a commercial-scale CO₂  storage site in offshore waters off the coast of Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi Offshore Sequestration Hub

In fall 2023, the Texas General Land Office awarded a contract for over 140,000 acres of state-owned land, including leases of the Port Aransas North and Mustang Island tracts (see below), for development of a CO₂ storage project located offshore of Corpus Christi, Texas.  

The contract was awarded to a partnership comprised of the Port of Corpus Christi, Repsol, Carbonvert, Mitsui E&P USA, and POSCO International. The project would have the capacity to inject more than 20 million metric tons of CO₂ into underground formations 5,000 feet below the Gulf of Mexico.  

Map of state-owned submerged land from Port of Corpus Christi presentation.

Enbridge and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures Sequestration Hub and Pipeline

In 2022, Enbridge and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures announced their intent to explore jointly developing a CO2 sequestration hub in Corpus Christi. Enbridge would construct and operate the pipeline facilities. The Corpus Christi CO₂ Pipeline would consist of an approximately 64-mile-long CO₂ transportation pipeline system with multiple receipt points throughout San Patricio, Nueces, and Kleberg Counties.

Oxy would develop the sequestration facilities as the South Texas Direct Air Capture Hub at the King Ranch in Kleburg County south of Corpus Christi. Oxy's plans state that the proposed facility would have the capacity to capture 30 million metric tons per year of carbon dioxide and sequester the gas in pore space in underground rock layers beneath the ranch. The hub and pipeline would provide “ CO₂ solutions” for Enbridge’s existing and proposed facilities, including the nearby Ingleside Energy Center, where Enbridge has announced a partnership with Yara Clean Ammonia to jointly develop an ammonia production facility with carbon capture technology.

Lead photo: Oil refineries and export terminals line the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, where local officials, energy companies, state agencies, and universities are planning carbon dioxide (CO₂) capture, transport, and storage facilities.

Louisa Markow
GIS Analyst

Louisa joined the Environmental Integrity Project in 2021. Prior to joining EIP, she worked as an AmeriCorps GIS Assistant for the National Park Service in Atlanta, GA, and a student researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She holds a B.S. in Conservation Biology and minor in Mathematics from Colorado State University.

Corpus Christi, Texas, is ground zero for CO₂ storage buildout in oil & gas region

Corpus Christi, Texas, is ground zero for CO₂ storage buildout in oil & gas region

June 20, 2024
Louisa Markow
GIS Analyst

Louisa joined the Environmental Integrity Project in 2021. Prior to joining EIP, she worked as an AmeriCorps GIS Assistant for the National Park Service in Atlanta, GA, and a student researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She holds a B.S. in Conservation Biology and minor in Mathematics from Colorado State University.