Report CCS needs urgent acceleration

Article by Staff Writer

THE development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies must be greatly accelerated if the world is to meet its climate change targets, according to the latest report from the Global CCS Institute.

Its Global Status of CCS: 2016 report, launched at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco this week, begins with a worrying statistic for CCS. While the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that a capacity of 4bn t/y of CCS will be needed by 2040 if the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to below 2?C is to be met, just 40m t/y of capacity is currently in operation or under construction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that without CCS, most climate change models do not meet emissions reductions targets, and estimates that the cost of meeting those targets would increase by 138%.

CCS projects around the world have suffered from funding and budget cuts. In the EU for example, CCS funding comes from money raised in the carbon markets, but the carbon price has fallen significantly. The cost benefit of installing CCS has also fallen with the lower price of oil. For example, in China, many CCS projects are linked to enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects. Policy uncertainty around the world is leading to projects being shelved or abandoned, for example the UK’s flagship White Rose project which was dropped in November 2015.

At the report launch, Global CCS Institute CEO Brad Page said that the scale of challenge should not be underestimated, and called for efforts to identify incentive mechanisms to tackle to complexity of risks associated with CCS and improve the economics of CCS projects. One of the most important ways of doing this will be through a policy overhaul.

“Widespread deployment of CCS must be based on ‘policy parity’, particularly the provision of equitable consideration, recognition and support for CCS alongside other low carbon technologies,” he said.

At present, this is not the case, and much of the focus on reducing carbon emissions is still on renewable energy. In the past decade, around US$2.5trn has been spent on clean energy technologies. US$1.8trn of that has been spent on wind and solar technologies, 120 times more than the US$20bn that has been spent on CCS. Developing stronger policy support may help to rebalance this.

The news is not all bad however, and there is cause for optimism, not least the Paris Agreement, which has taken just ten months to be ratified, compared to eight years for its predecessor, the Kyoto Agreement. The Global CCS Institute believes that this will encourage countries to explore options like CCS. While CCS growth has slowed in places, it has not stopped altogether.

“We are close to having 18 large-scale CCS facilities operational globally, with a number of key facilities in the US completing construction and in the final phases of commissioning. This compares with less than ten operational large-scale CCS facilities at the start of 2010,” said Page.

The Institute has found that there are 38 large-scale CCS projects around the world, of which 15 are currently in operation, capturing around 30m t/y of CO2, with 21 expected to be operational by the end of 2017. Two major industrial schemes began operations in 2016 ¬– Emirates Steel’s Abu Dhabi CCS Project (the first large-scale project applying CCS to iron and steel production), capable of capturing 800,000 t/y of CO2, and the Tomakomai CCS Demonstration Project in Japan, with 100,000 t/y CO2 captured from a process to produce hydrogen and stored offshore.

Several more major projects are expected to start up in 2017, including the 3m t/y Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi, US, which will use gasification and pre-combustion CO2 capture, and the 1.4m t/y Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project in Texas, US, which when operational, will be the largest post-combustion capture plant in the world. Other projects include the Gorgon project in Western Australia and the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line project in Canada.

The report highlights some operational milestones for CCS in 2016, for example, Boundary Dam, the world’s first CCS project at a commercial power station, has now captured 1m t of CO2. China’s Jilin Oil Field Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Demonstration Project also injected 1m t of CO2 in 2016.The Sleipner CO2 Storage Project offshore Norway has injected 16m t of CO2 since it began operations in 1996.

“The technology still depends on more widespread adoption. The vital role attached to CCS in global models in the transition to a low-carbon economy has not translated broadly enough into policy support at national levels,” said Page. “The timeline of forward activities is critical. The number of large-scale CCS facilities must rise substantially to help meet the climate targets and aspirations of the Paris Agreement. The danger is, if the right policy, legal and regulatory preconditions are not put in place over the next five years, Paris will be just a pipe dream.”

Luke Warren, CEO of UK industry body the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) said that the report showed that there are “no technical barriers to the development of safe, reliable CCS projects around the world and that there is significant experience in successful operation over many years.”

He added: “We need to reinforce the message that CCS is not in competition with other low-carbon technologies, it is complementary. And, as the 2016 Global CCS Status report clearly shows, we will need all mitigation options to tackle climate change at least cost.”

Article by Staff Writer

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