CCS – what will it be?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) may be technically useful to prevent global warming. Politicians think so too.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) thinks the world will need over 200 power plants equipped with CCS by 2030 to limit the rise in average global temperatures to about 3°C. 

There is not a single big power plant using CCS anywhere in the world. CCS is uncertain.

CCS sounds simple: isolate carbon dioxide where it is produced,  compress it and pump it underground. Carbon dioxide is expected to stay in certain rock formations indefinitely. Oil firms have long experience of pumping carbon dioxide into reservoirs. Sleipner off Norway has been running for 13 years without any sign of leaks.

In America, Australia, China, Germany and India coal provides half or more of the power supply.

The problem with CCS is the cost. Each tonne may cost $ 50-115 to avoid emission, whereas the price of emissions are about $11. Norway has a heavy carbon tax – last summer it reached over €40 a tonne.

Spills could be a health risk if the deposits start leaking.

Governments may eventually take charge of reservoirs, along with all the monitoring costs and legal liabilities. 

Al Gore does not see CCS working commercially “in the near term or even the medium term”. Governments will have to take a role initially, but the final outcome of CCS is not clear today.

(The Economist)

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