Exxon Mobil Corp. plans to spend more than $100 million to build a plant in Wyoming that will allow it to finish developing and test technology that could make capturing and storing carbon dioxide more affordable and open up vast new sources of natural gas.
The Irving, Texas-based company said Monday it will build the plant near LaBarge, Wyo., beginning this summer. Startup is scheduled for late 2009 and testing is expected to take place over a couple of years.
The plant will employ Exxon Mobil's Controlled Freeze Zone technology, which uses cryogenics to remove carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and other unwanted compounds from methane — a costly undertaking at present.
Exxon Mobil said CFZ technology involves a single-step removal process, which makes it far simpler and, as such, far less costly.
The company has been working on the technology for about 25 years. It would be particularly useful in "sour gas" fields in places such as Wyoming where high concentrations of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide make methane recovery an economic challenge.
"This technology will assist in the development of additional gas resources ... and facilitate the application of carbon capture and storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Exxon Mobil senior vice president Mark Albers.
State officials in Wyoming, which has benefited significantly from a natural gas boom, have been keenly interested in capturing carbon dioxide emissions, which are widely blamed for global warming.
The Wyoming Legislature this year passed bills hashing out landowners' rights to store carbon dioxide and similar gases underneath the ground and setting a regulatory framework for carbon management.
In Exxon Mobil's CFZ process, the carbon dioxide and other components are discharged as a high-pressure liquid stream for injection into underground storage. In some cases, Exxon Mobil will sell the carbon dioxide to oil and gas companies that use it underground to recover fossil fuels that can't be brought to the surface using conventional drilling practices.
The goal, Exxon Mobil said, is to use the Wyoming plant to advance the technology to commercial application. Exxon Mobil operates a natural gas processing plant in LaBarge.