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US bill to expand tax credit for carbon capture projects

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Bill would remove January 1, 2024 eligibility deadline

Tax credit for direct air capture technology will be increased

Houston — A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday would eliminate the project construction deadline for the Section 45Q carbon capture tax credit as well as increase the credit amount for direct air capture facilities.

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The Section 45Q tax credit currently requires projects to begin construction before January 1, 2024, to be eligible for the credit, which was created by the Budget Act of 2018 to incentivize carbon capture and removal technology deployment.

"This is very positive for the industry," said Claude Letourneau, president and CEO of Svante, a Vancouver-based carbon capture technology company. "The cycle of getting these projects approved is quite long, so this is quite significant."

The bill also increases the tax credit for direct air capture technology to $62.50/mt from $50/mt for geologic sequestration, and to $43.75/mt from $35/mt for sequestration through enhanced oil recovery or other beneficial use.

Brad Crabtree, the director of the Carbon Capture Coalition, which has promoted such legislation, said direct air capture, or DAC, technology is relatively young and would benefit from increased investment. He drew a parallel to the policy incentives that helped drive efficiency improvements and lower system costs for wind and solar technology.

"Direct capture technology is even less developed than [carbon capture and sequestration] technology," said Crabtree, adding that the bill attempts to "provide more value for [DAC] technology that has even further to go along the development path."

Crabtree noted that pulling CO2 from ambient air is possible with today's technology but because the concentration of CO2 is so low when compared with flue gas from a coal plant, the costs are high.

Although the Section 45Q tax credit was passed in 2018, developers are still awaiting guidance from the Internal Revenue Service regarding implementation.

Representative David Schweikert, Republican-Arizona, who introduced the bill along with Representative Brad Wenstrup, Republican-Ohio, wrote a letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on February 5 advocating the Treasury Department and IRS to issue such guidance "as soon as possible."

"It has now been two years since the passage of this tax credit, and we have concerns that the delay could hinder the growth of this important new market," wrote Schweikert. "Financial certainty for potential investors in a new technology is required before construction begins."

Letourneau said his company currently has one carbon capture project underway at a LafargeHolcim cement plant in Colorado that would capture an estimated 1 million mt of CO2 annually, but that a further 30 projects are under consideration, pending release of the tax guidance.

Svante is a member of the Carbon Capture Coalition.

Crabtree declined to comment on whether the removal of the project construction deadline was due to the lack of tax guidance but said the 45Q tax credit "is a very powerful incentive to help get these projects financed and moved forward, so the guidance coming out will be like uncorking the bottle."

The US emitted 5.2 billion mt of CO2 in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration, of which 1.1 billion mt came from coal, 1.7 billion mt from natural gas and 2.4 billion mt from petroleum and other liquid fuels.