Milestone Environmental expands in carbon sequestration

Milestone Environmental Services has built a business on energy waste management.

The Houston-based company has nine disposal facilities across the state – seven in the Permian Basin and two in the Eagle Ford. Seven are sludge to accept liquid waste while there are two landfills for solid waste, one near Orla and one in Upton County, south of Midland.

All of this set the stage for the company’s newest venture, a carbon capture and sequestration business unit designed to serve mid-market emitters.

Gabriel Rio, president and CEO of Milestone, said the skills needed to design, license, build and operate its facilities are similar to those needed to design, license, build and operate sequestration projects.

Speaking with the Reporter-Telegram by phone, he noted that the company is already helping customers manage carbon emissions through its slurry injections. The company’s first sustainability report showed Milestone sequestered 279,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent last year by injecting liquid waste into its sludge.

Rio said it has observed a shift among Milestone’s customers when it comes to emissions, noting that some companies are committing to emitting net zero emissions by a date, whether in 2030 or 2050.

The decision to switch to a sequestration business model began about nine months ago, Rio said. Chris Davis, formerly at ExxonMobil, joined Milestone in July as vice president of carbon sequestration.

“I see carbon capture and sequestration as an important technology to help the energy industry navigate the energy transition,” said Davis.

Davis said there is already talk of a future hydrogen economy and that while the technology exists to extract hydrogen and sequester carbon underground, “we need the costs of capturing the carbon decrease “.

When developing his unit, Davis said Milestone will look for appropriately sized projects that can be advanced quickly under existing technology. There are already customers emitting carbon dioxide from their treatment facilities who need help managing these emissions.

Rio agrees: “We’re not talking about Shell or Exxon that would require $ 100 billion projects. We’re talking about smaller-scale, more economical projects that can capture 200 million cubic feet per day and inject it into a Class VI well, licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency, in permanent storage a mile underground.

Davis said there is a learning curve on both the industry and regulatory side of carbon capture and sequestration.

Even if carbon capture and storage becomes 20 to 30 times what it is today, it will require a lot of investment and support from the government, Rio said. Industry and government have a common goal of avoiding carbon emissions and sequestering those emissions to mitigate the impact of burning fossil fuels, he said.

Rio has asked the EPA to hand over primary oversight of Class VI wells to the states because it has water injection. It’s important for Texas and New Mexico to have the primary responsibility, he said, something that’s probably a few years away. He added that he had investigated tax incentives such as the 45Q tax credit and said such incentives would help advance technology.

Davis said agencies are going to have to learn how to handle many more demands for carbon capture projects as the industry moves forward to capture carbon emissions from a variety of industries, from natural gas processing to steel through cement.

Efficient carbon capture will require not only a handful of huge $ 100 billion projects, but thousands of Class VI sinks to process smaller volumes, Rio said. Although Milestone currently has no Class VI wells, Davis and his team are investigating potential sites around its existing operations.

“When you think of the broader energy transition, we know that oil and gas have a role to play for decades to come,” Rio said.

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