With the world trying to reach net zero carbon emissions, carbon capture stocks have taken center stage. Not only that, the Biden Administration has already pledged $3.7 billion to help kickstart the industry and achieve climate objectives. However, in order to achieve those objectives, carbon capture will need to be prove itself profitable. Without profit, carbon capture can’t create a virtuous cycle of growth and development.
Carbon capture is the process of removing CO2 and either using it for something else or sequestering it. But sequestration is difficult and CO2 has proven less useful than advocates had wished. Thus a successful carbon capture stock needs to have a strong vision of what they can accomplish profitably. And that means understanding both the science and economics of carbon.
While many companies talk about carbon capture, very few actually do it. By contrast, these are genuine carbon capture stocks that actually capture carbon. If the carbon capture industry proves its value, you’ll want to bet on the doers, not the talkers. So here’s three carbon capture stocks to keep on your radar.
Fuel Cell Energy (FCEL)
Fuel Cell Energy (NASDAQ:FCEL) sells, leases, and maintains fuel cells for producing electricity. While many of us learned that hydrogen and oxygen combine to produce water and energy, Fuel Cell Energy has an added twist for capturing carbon. In order to obtain hydrogen, Fuel Cell Energy combines methane with CO2 at ultrahigh temperatures. That hydrogen is then used to produce electricity in fuel cells.
Because CO2 is a necessary ingredient, Fuel Cell Energy thinks its carbon capture process can be profitable. It’s important to realize that this process produces carbon dioxide just as much as it consumes it. But the produced CO2 is in a state that makes it easier to sequester instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
For Q1 of 2023, Fuel Cell Energy reported an operating loss of $22.4 million and cash and cash equivalents of $315 million. Their total revenue was $37 million of which “Advanced Technologies” (which includes carbon capture) was $4.4 million. However Advanced Technologies did show 10% growth from Q1 2022.
If Fuel Cell Energy is right, then their technology can lead to net zero CO2 production when using methane as an energy source. However the CO2 still needs to be sequestered or it just gets released back into the atmosphere. Fuel Cell Energy also needs to show it can turn a profit. But its Advanced Technologies revenue shows growth and it has plenty of runway with its cash on hand. If Fuel Cell Energy can meet these challenges, it can win big in the net zero future.
Fluor (NYSE:FLR) is an engineering and construction company making its own play in the carbon capture market. It was recently tapped by CarbonCapture (privately held) to help build a facility to remove CO2 directly from the air. Dubbed Project Bison, this complex will sequester the CO2 in deep saltwater aquifers beneath Wyoming.
Unlike Fuel Cell Energy, Project Bison won’t directly make money by using CO2. Instead it hopes to sell carbon credits to other companies, getting them to pay it to sequester carbon. Only California currently requires companies to participate in a cap-and-trade carbon market. But if such a strategy goes national it could be a boon to Project Bison and its backers. Fluor is a major construction company, with $13.7 billion in revenue and $427 million in earnings in FY 2022. Carbon capture (part of their Energy Solutions segment) is just a small piece of that pie. But it could grow substantially if demand for carbon offsets increases.
Because Fluor’s carbon capture system doesn’t directly monetize the carbon, it is in many ways a bet on the regulatory environment. If more governments follow California in requiring carbon offsets, that could mean more demand for schemes like Project Bison. That in turn would mean more awards for Fluor. But even if such regulations don’t materialize, Fluor is still in a relatively safe position with its other revenue sources. Keep a lookout for more state governments to require carbon offsets, that could make Fluor a hot topic in the near future.
NRG Energy (NRG)
NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) is a case study in the perils and profits of carbon capture. It is a classic carbon-intensive power company, selling electricity from oil, coal and gas. But their Petra Nova plant was built as a free market solution to CO2: they would use CO2 to extract oil.
In 2016, NRG’s Petra Nova system first came online. It captured CO2 waste from NRG’s coal power plant and sent it via pipes for enhanced oil recovery. Because the CO2 was directly used in profitable oil production, NRG claimed that it also boosted their bottom line.
However, in 2022 NRG sold the Petra Nova project to Japanese firm Eneos (OTCMKTS:JXHGF) for a small percentage of what they paid for it. NRG cited falling oil prices and rising costs associated with the project. However their briefings still proudly claim that they will continue to pursue carbon capture solutions like Petra Nova. With 2022 total revenue of $31.5 billion, and earnings of $2 billion, they can continue to pursue carbon capture solutions for years to come. And future energy regulations may even force them to.
On the date of publication, John Blankenhorn did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.