At the urging of state officials, Texas oil giant ExxonMobil (s XOM) has undertaken a $70 million project to capture and store 6 million metric tons of emissions annually from its natural gas plant in La Barge, Wyo., an increase of 50 percent from the current 4 million tons per year. Better known for denying humans’ contribution to climate change, the company plans to spend another $100 million testing technology for stripping carbon out of natural gas by 2010, the Wall Street Journal reports.
To be sure, $170 million is little more than pocket change for Exxon, with its record-breaking profits. But while the company now lets about half the La Barge plant’s emissions spit out into the atmosphere, the new project — combined with expertise acquired during decades of dabbling in carbon sequestration (see our FAQ on the technology) — could give Exxon an odd lead in the race to devise emissions-control technologies ahead of carbon pricing schemes supported by President-elect Barack Obama.
“Certainly, Exxon isn’t usually thought of as being in the forefront of environmental progress,” Environmental Defense Fund’s A. Scott Andersonbut told the WSJl, “but the fact is they are deeply involved in carbon capture and storage technology.” Here’s hoping the company’s pledged carbon storage testing will yield more results than the clean coal lobby’s meager R&D.