The use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for emissions reduction has grown by 50 per cent worldwide since 2011, a new report has found.

There are now 22 CCS projects in operation or under construction around the world, the Global CCS Institute (GCCSI) said in its The Global Status of CCS: 2014 report, which also found substantial progress since 2013.

In addition, the technology passed a milestone with the start of the world’s first coal-fired power plant equipped with CCS

The release of the report is timely, with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advocating the use of the technology in its latest assessment of global warming
Brad Page of Global CCS Institute
Brad Page, CEO of the Global CCS Institute, said in a statement: “We simply can’t have an effective response to tackling climate change without CCS.” He urged a “year of action” to develop the technology.

His comments echoed those of Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC who said: “With CCS it is entirely possible for fossil fuels to continue to be used on a large scale.”

‘In the absence of carbon capture and storage then power generation from fossil fuels would need to be phased out by the end of this century if we want to limit temperature increases to 2C.’

The report found that since last year CCS has experienced its most active construction period to date, with a key project, Canada’s Boundary Dam power station (CO2 capture capacity of 1 Mtpa), coming online and two more – the Kemper County Energy Facility (CO2 capture capacity of 3 Mtpa) in the US state of Mississippi and the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project (CO2 capture capacity of 1.4 Mtpa) in Texas – planned to be operational in 2015 and 2016.

A further nine large-scale power sector CCS projects are at the advanced planning stage, the Institute reports, with some of these expected to be in a position to make a final investment decision in 2015 and all of them predicted to be operational by 2020 “given the right conditions”.

North America hosts the lion’s share of operational, under-construction and planned projects, with the rest spread across nine countries. China is home to four projects, the UK to three and Norway to two.

It’s not all positive news for CCS, despite a growing awareness of the necessity of its development in some quarters.

In Australia, where the Global CCS Institute is headquartered, the Australian government (in its budget) cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years. The program had already been cut by the previous Labor government and much of the funding remained unallocated.

The Cambridge University Senior Lecturer in Technology Policy former UK government adviser on CCS, Dr David Reiner told Power Engineering International that he is ‘not at all surprised’ that Mr Abbott would withdraw support from CCS in Australia.

“Unlike other low carbon technologies, like wind and nuclear, which existed long before our current concerns over climate change, the only reason for proceeding with CCS is as one solution to climate (out of a portfolio of options).  Since Tony Abbott is on record as describing the argument behind climate change as ‘absolute crap’, it is completely logical that he would not support CCS.”

Dr Reiner says a lack of boldness or clarity in policy making has led to the sluggishness in bringing through CCS at the accelerated rate it needs to be introduced and refined.

“I would argue that the pessimism around CCS is linked, at least in part, to pessimism about the future of an aggressive climate change regime and a lack of faith that we will see credible, long-term carbon prices or other mechanisms to significantly reduce emissions.  Almost by definition, CCS won’t happen at scale unless there is a stringent emissions reduction regime in place.  There have, of course, been delays in some projects and concerns over costs, but the unease over CCS fundamentally reflects a lack of seriousness over the challenge of reducing emissions.”Dr David Reiner

Reiner told PEi that he would expect to see the costs of CCS projects come down as more experience is gained with demonstrations projects over the coming decade as it will enable engineers to see the CCS technologies that are promising and ones to omit.

But he warns that governments will need to be prepared to spend many tens of billions on CCS technologies if the world is to meet ambitious climate targets in a more cost-effective manner.

He added the IPCC is consistent in its message about the cost of not investing in the technology.

“The IPCC points out that the costs of any serious effort to dramatically reduce emissions are much higher without CCS. Indeed, costs are much higher in a world without CCS than if there was, say, a global phase-out of nuclear power or limitations on solar or bioenergy deployment.  Part of the reason for the importance of CCS in keeping costs down in such models is that whereas decarbonising the electricity sector is expensive (but not prohibitively so), in some sectors, such as energy- intensive industries (steel, cement, etc), without CCS the costs of decarbonisation would be much more expensive.”

Finally, bioenergy plus CCS (BECCS), is presented in the IPCC report as critical to meeting agreed international targets to keep temperature rise below 2C (i.e., to place a limit on cumulative global emissions).

Dr Reiner is in accord with that conclusion too.

“BECCS is currently one of the most plausible means of generating a large amount of ‘net negative’ emissions, which would be necessary to make up for higher emissions in the next decade or two if we continue to delay taking serious action.”

[bc_video account_id=”” player_id=”” video_id=””]