HOBART — BP is in the early stages of exploring a carbon capture and storage project that could help clean up Northwest Indiana's heavy industry.

Company officials said the project could help safeguard the future of the BP Whiting Refinery as it looks to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2025. At an open house last week at Avalon Manor in Hobart, they also said it could address much — though likely not all — of the 35 million tons of carbon that industry in Northwest Indiana emits every year.

BP hosted six open houses in Indiana this month about the project.

"This is about keeping the community informed about our vision for what is possible in the state of Indiana, and benefits it could bring for the communities, answering any questions people might have and addressing any concerns they might have," spokesman Joshua Hicks said of the events. "We're trying to do community outreach, make sure people are informed before any plans are in place."

The project is in the preliminary planning stages. Hicks said BP was in about step three of perhaps 50 necessary steps for the project, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change.

"There's not a firm timeline right now. There's still a lot of things that would have to happen before we actually make an investment decision," Hicks said. "A lot of things would have to fall into place. Land acquisition is one thing. We would need to get the land, do community outreach, get financing lined up."

The Indiana General Assembly passed legislation last year that would make the state favorable for carbon capture and storage projects, Hicks said. BP also believes Indiana's geology would be conducive to carbon capture and storage. The company would drill thousands of feet deep underground, largely on farms in rural areas downstate, and inject the carbon into Mt. Simon sandstone, which is porous and can retain fluids. It's under a layer of impermeable shale, which would cap the carbon so it couldn't escape and potentially contaminate groundwater closer to the earth's surface.

BP recently announced it would invest $8 billion more into "transition growth engines," such as hydrogens and carbon capture and storage.

"Projects like this would be able to benefit from that funding. But each part of BP is competing for that funding," he said. "Indiana is in a good position to compete for that funding. We have to make the case to the big headquarters in London that this is one of the best opportunities, and then they would make a decision about whether to make the investment. So we're still a long way off. It's still very early but we see a lot of potential here."

BP needs to do seismic testing to confirm that the sandstone underground in a "Goldilocks Zone" in downstate Indiana would be suitable for storing carbon, Hicks said. It hasn't decided exactly where the storage sites would be, but is potentially looking at locations in Newton, Jasper, Pulaski, White and Benton counties.

"We think there's an ideal geology underground for storing carbon," he said. "We need to confirm what we think is true, that these rock formations would be good for permanently storing carbon thousands of feet underneath the ground. There's still a lot of work before we can hit the go button."

Globally, BP is looking at pursuing many such carbon capture and storage projects worldwide. In the United States, it's focused currently on Indiana and Texas.

The company would look to capture carbon from major emitters like the steel industry in Northwest Indiana and the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We could potentially help others decarbonize," Hicks said. "Other industrial emitters — we can help them. We know how CCS works. We know a lot about drilling and a lot about geology and a lot about engineering, so we can help others decarbonize."
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