Exxon plans hydrogen and carbon-capture/storage plant near Houston

The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

HOUSTON, March 1 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM.N) on Tuesday said it plans a hydrogen production plant and a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at its Baytown refinery near Houston, Texas, an effort to reduce its carbon footprint while earning a profit.

The complex would be Exxon's first contribution to a cross-industry effort to create a $100 billion carbon capture and storage zone along the Houston Ship Channel, the so-called Houston Hub.

A final investment decision is expected in two to three years and is pending regulatory permits and engineering studies, according to Ed Graham, vice president of Exxon's Low Carbon Solutions venture. The largest U.S. producer has allocated $15 billion in initiatives to lower carbon emissions over a six-year period.

"This is a significant step for efforts to decarbonize the existing industry," Graham told Reuters. "This is both in the petrochemical and ultimately into cement and steel, which are hard to abate".

The project will help Exxon to meet its target to achieve net zero carbon emissions for its global operations while making money to shareholders at the same time, Graham said. The profitability of the project will be considered for a final investment decision, he said, declining to comment on numbers.

"That's our challenge to the energy transition, to find that right balance," Graham said.

The proposed hydrogen facility would produce up to 1 billion cubic feet per day of the so-called "blue" hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas and supported by carbon capture and

storage.

Climate activists are pushing for more companies to produce "green hydrogen" from electrolysis because blue hydrogen still requires the use of fossil fuels.

The carbon capture infrastructure for this project would have the capacity to transport and store up to 10 million metric tons of CO2 per year, Exxon said.

The company is considering onshore and offshore locations along the Gulf of Mexico to store the carbon, Graham said.

Reporting by Sabrina Valle; Editing by David Gregorio

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