The US Gulf of Mexico Region: Leader in Energy Production and the Energy Transition

The Gulf region can leverage its energy history, infrastructure, capacity, and expertise to lead the energy transition.

Gulf of Mexico
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Beginning with some of the earliest American oil wells in the mid-19th century and continuing with the first true offshore oil rig in the 1940s, the US Gulf of Mexico region is steeped in history as an energy production hub with global influence. Initial oil exploration in Texas and Louisiana progressed from windfalls to a sophisticated balance of risk and reward across the region, spurred by engineering advances and geologic expertise that shifted prospects to new topographies and, eventually, deeper waters.

The progression of the energy industry in the area paralleled immense growth in port infrastructure, development of a technically skilled workforce, and the expansion of numerous top engineering institutions. As a result, the Gulf is a crucial region for national and international energy production with established infrastructure and a world-class experienced workforce.

How will the Gulf region leverage its energy history, expertise, and capacity to lead a sustainable and just energy transition? This article addresses three Gulf Coast capabilities that are key to enabling this country’s bright energy future: carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and experienced, resilient communities.

Carbon Capture and Storage
Building on its long legacy of leadership in hydrocarbon exploration, production, and refining, the Gulf Coast region is well positioned to play a leading role in carbon capture and storage (CCS). Offshore CCS is still in the early stages of development, but the region’s leadership in the upstream industry can make it a frontrunner in offshore CCS for the United States.

Carbon storage in the form of CO2-enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a vital bridge technology for carbon sequestration, has been practiced in the Permian basin for over 50 years. The oil and gas industry has significant experience in the large-scale injection of CO2 into the subsurface.

Data and Characterization. Much of the experience and many of the technologies and processes developed by the oil and gas industry can be transitioned to CCS projects. These include a broad range of modeling, measurement, and monitoring tools for reservoir surveillance and management strategies for pressure maintenance. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most well-explored basins for hydrocarbon potential, with thousands of square miles of integrated 3D seismic data and thousands of well logs that allow for a detailed assessment of regional CO2 storage potential.

But some site characterization challenges need to be addressed. Data sparsity is typically a significant challenge for CCS, particularly for regionally extensive aquifers, which will be the primary CO2 storage resource as opposed to oil and gas reservoirs. Increased data density will reduce geologic uncertainty and enhance model calibration and forecasting.

Economies of Scale and Storage Capacity. The industrial landscape of the coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana hosts clusters of coal- and natural gas–fired power plants, refineries and petrochemical complexes, and gas liquefaction, cement, and other stationary industrial emission sources. The Gulf Coast region, therefore, has the highest CO2 emissions in the country, accounting for nearly 20% of total US emissions. This large volume provides economy of scale for large CCS projects, while the concentrated CO2 sources provide “low-hanging fruit” for rapid CCS deployment as CO2 capture is typically the most significant component (generally 60–70%) of the overall project cost.

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