Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are preventing 25 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere each year and are seen by the International Energy Agency as one of the top three ways to reduce carbon emissions by 2050, alongside energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources. However, the technology only puts a dent in the problem. Although the technology is showing some signs of progress, it will take several years of innovation before the technology is fully capable of tackling the world’s primary source of CO2 emissions: coal-fired power plants.
According to a report from Global CCS Institute last year, the pace of the global CCS movement is, despite it’s progress, too slow to make a “substantial contribution to climate change mitigation.” CCS projects are lacking in the power sector, where most of the big players in carbon emissions reside. Development of CCS technologies also suffered a loss of more than $7 billion in funding since 2009. Last year, 12 projects were canceled, reduced in size, or postponed, mostly due to the high costs involved with the technology. In addition, CCS technologies have not been proved to work on a commercial basis. Barriers such as these are the primary reason the CCS technology is struggling to take hold.
Global CCS Institute CEO Brad Page said, “Ongoing uncertainty about the timing, nature, extent and durability of emissions reduction policies, as well as a lack of sufficient incentives and funding support for more CCS projects, are limiting investment in the technology.”
Right now, eight CCS projects are under construction that could block 38 million metric tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions from reaching the atmosphere – 52% more than what is currently captured by the 12 operational facilities. Two new projects in Kemper County, Mississippi and Saskatchewan, Canada will become the first coal-fired power plants with CCS technology installed in 2014.
For CCS technologies to grow enough to put a hold on or prevent climate change, the number of new proposals for projects must increase sharply, the pipeline network to carry captured gas will need to be expanded at least 100 times, and more countries with high energy demands need to become members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). According to the report, 70 percent of captured CO2 will need to occur in these non-OECD countries to achieve global emission targets by 2050.
The United States is the current leader in CCS development, followed by China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. According to the report, China is “well positioned to influence the future success of CCS,” especially with CCS development included in its latest five-year plan. CCS development in the U.S. may receive a boost in the coming years from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who recently proposed a new set of carbon emission performance standards for future fossil fuel plants.
If additional financial support were available for the construction and research of CCS projects, the number of these projects could be boosted. Mr. Page said urgent policy action needs to be taken to ensure the success of global large-scale CCS technologies in the next five to 10 years, which would limit and possibly reverse the damaging effects of CO2 emissions.
Study finds little global movement in capturing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, E&E news
Despite Climate Concern, Global Study Finds Fewer Carbon Capture Projects, NY Times
Carbon capture development has slowed since 2012 -study, Reuters