This is a cross-post from Bellona, originally published June 4, 2015. The author is Marika Andersen, EU Policy and Communication Adviser for Bellona.
Bellona is encouraged to see our partners at the Oslo energy recovery agency EGE moving ahead with this project, which Bellona has closely supported from the outset.
– Oslo can take a leadership role in the development of technologies related to carbon capture from waste combustion plants, and help lift the processing of sorted waste to a new level, the Governing Mayor of Oslo, Stian Berger Røsland (Conservative party) said.
Carbon negative potential
The Norwegian environmental NGO Bellona Foundation, an advocate for Carbon Capture and Storage technology since the 1990s, has been working for years with this facility. They celebrate this decision as Klemetsrud could become the first carbon-negative installation in Europe.
– This project, with potential to achieve carbon negative emissions, brings new momentum to European efforts on CCS. We hope that the project can be realized fast as we need to show politicians it’s possible to do a lot more. Seeing is believing, Bellona President Frederic Hauge said.
As biomass takes up CO2 when it grows, by capturing the CO2 resulting from its combustion excess CO2 is removed from the atmosphere.
The IPCC is very clear that such carbon negative solutions will also be needed on a massive scale to keep global warming below 2 degrees.
Major emission reductions
The Klemetsrud plant is one of Norway’s largest land-based industrial sites and has a large source of CO2 emissions, with annual emissions of approximately 300,000 tons. Removing these emissions will be a significant contribution to achieving the Oslo climate targets for 2030 and 2050. Oslo’s Environment Commissioner Guri Melby (Liberal party) believes carbon capture is an important climate action, also in an international context.
Oslo City Council wants the Klemetsrud facility to become a national industrial pilot for carbon capture, and will make the facility available as an international test facility. The facility has continuous operation throughout the year with a long-term operation perspective, and is therefore a very good base for further development of carbon capture technology.
This is a cross-post by guest author Camilla Svendsen-Skriung with ZERO.
One of the last things the coalition government did before it went off in 2013 was to shelve the full-scale plant at Mongstad. The present government promised that, despite this, they held on to the promise of a Norwegian CCS projects by 2020. A demanding position for the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Tord Lien, who now must hammer out a new CCS policy for Norway.
The Department of Oil and Energy published last week theGassnova report on potential full-scale CCS projects in Norway - a pre-feasibility study.
The study shows that several industrial companies may be willing to consider CO2 capture and storage, but this is - not surprisingly - depending on the framework established by the state.
ZERO believes it is positive that Gassnova makes specific recommendations to facilitate further feasibility of CO2 capture at both Norcem and Yara facilities. That the body of waste treatment in Oslo, and further studies of CO2 capture at the Klemetsrud plant, is highlighted, is also good.
The study concludes on the other hand that a basis for investment decision for a CO2 capture project, at the earliest can be presented in autumn 2018. And this means that it will be very difficult to realize full-scale demonstration of CO2 capture in Norway by 2020.
ZERO said the study confirms the need and the good potential for CCS in Norway. And that we have the ability to initiate measures to expedite the process towards the realization of a full-scale project. In other words, now we have to move forward in terms of Norwegian CCS policy. The goal put forward in the so called climate agreement to establish a Norwegian full-scale CCS projects by 2020, is an appropriate level of ambition and an achievable goal.
Less good is it when, as here, the authorities questions whether this goal is possible. The longer we hesitate now, the greater the chances that we do not succeed with a Norwegian CCS plants by 2020.
It is still within reach to organize and build a CCS project in three years, as the example of Saskatchewan in Canada shows, with the construction of the SaskPower’ Boundary Dam CCS project.
This is how it can be done:
1.The annual state budget for 2016 must have concrete and effective measures and adequate funding. ZERO proposes an expanded mandate and an increased allocation to Enova for CCS developments and implementation, in cooperation with Gassnova.
2. A grant of funds to one (or more) projects, after an application process, should come in 2017
3. 2017-2020: organization, construction and commissioning of a Norwegian full-scale CCS project
We believe that Tord Lien can get CCS on track. Norway needs through concrete action to show that the stated goal of Norwegian full-scale CCS still remains unchanged, and that Norway takes responsibility for its share of greenhouse cuts that are necessary to reach the international goal of a zero-emission society by 2050
This is a cross-post by guest author Bruce Hill with Clean Air Task Force.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been identified as a critical technology to manage the transition to a low carbon economy, not just for power generation, but for industrial activitylike manufacturing cement and steel. Recent reports from the IPCC, the United Nations, and the International Agency have affirmed this role.
The main mechanism for CCS is deep injection of CO2 and dissolution of the CO2 into the briny water in the rock pores combined with physically trapping the CO2 beneath thousands of feet of impermeable rock. This is the way that nature has trapped oil and natural gas in geologic structures for tens to hundreds of millions of years. Without this natural trapping and storage ability, we wouldn't have fossil fuels today. Geologic carbon storage takes advantage of this same natural capacity for storage. Numerous studies, and in-field tests, have demonstrated the feasibility, soundness and stability of this form of carbon storage.
Image: Storage of CO2 requires a permeable rock formation overlain by thousands of feet of rock impermeable to vertical flow. Source:http://www.co2crc.com.au/images/imagelibrary/stor_diag/storage_saline.jpg
Geologic storage formations must be at great depth and overlain by a thick sequence of impermeable rock, capable of permanently trapping the CO2 whether it is in a liquid or gas form or dissolved in the formation water. The ability to use deep geologic formations for storage is fully proven by the nearly 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas currently stored by U.S. gas companies, which has been injected back into rock formations, stored for future use (See:http://ir.eia.gov/ngs/ngs.html). And in fact, CO2 injection technology is well known with a four-decade long track record of safety beginning in 1972 in Texas for the purposes of stimulating oil production.
There is an additional possible very long-term mechanism for CCS in addition to dissolution of CO2 in briny water and trapping underneath thousands of feet of impermeable rock. That is “mineralization” – the transformation of CO2 into solid rock, bound up with other minerals. It has been speculated that this mechanism may provide an additional layer of protection over the scale of thousands to tens of thousands of years or more (see illustration below). But the mineralization sequestration mechanism has a small role to play in geologic storage and has never been the primary focus of CCS in time scales meaningful to humans.
Image: Mineralization plays a small role in trapping CO2 in a permeable saline formation. Source:http://www.co2crc.com.au/aboutccs/stor_trapping.html
Yet that is the unfortunate misimpression left by recent press coverage of a report from MIT. In a January 21 paper entitled Mechanisms for mechanical trapping of geologically sequestered Carbon dioxide, MIT researchers Yossi Cohen and Dan Rothman analyzed the processes of how CO2 is “mineralized” i.e., bound up in minerals, when it is injected into a rock formation as a climate mitigation strategy. The researchers modeled the mechanics of how injected CO2 reacts with carbonate storage reservoir rock to form minerals. (see:http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/471/2175/20140853.) The authors concluded that only “a small fraction of injected CO2 is converted to solid mineral.”
The paper is sound science, but a misleading press release by MIT, and subsequent press coverage that followed that release, has unfortunately mischaracterized it. The January 20 statement issued by the MIT press covering the paper was headlined, “Sequestration on Shaky Ground,” and subtitled: “Study finds a natural impediment to the long-term sequestration of carbon dioxide.” Further, the release included an animation suggesting CO2 “bubbles” migrating upwards through rock. Finally, the junior researcher on the study, post doc student, Yossi Cohen, is quoted as saying:
“If it [CO2] turns into rock, it’s stable and will remain there permanently. However, if it stays in its gaseous or liquid phase, it remains mobile and it can possibly return back to the atmosphere.”
While we applaud the paper’s contribution to the understanding of the geochemical processes associated with carbon mineralization, the research did nothing to investigate the risk of injected CO2 returning to the atmosphere over any meaningful long-term time scale in the absence of this mechanism. The authors have clarified this point on their website (https://rothmangroup.mit.edu/publications).
As noted above, carbon sequestration through the formation of minerals is notthe mechanism by which geologists will ensure CO2 is permanently trapped in the subsurface. Instead, a robust geologic CO2 storage strategy combines several trapping mechanisms, including dissolution of the CO2 into the briny water in the rock pores combined with physically trapping the CO2 beneath thousands of feet of impermeable rock. The formation of minerals is a very long-term process that would not prove useful for addressing climate change if it were the chief mechanism for geologic carbon storage. In fact over long time periods, CO2 dissolved in formation water will actually become more dense and have a tendency to sink (see image below).
Image: CO2 moves upwards to the top seal. Over time the CO2 dissolves into the formation water. This makes it denser and it moves downwards. Source: http://www.co2crc.com.au/images/imagelibrary/stor_diag/CO2-simulation_media.jpg
To be sure, CO2 cannot be injected just any old place. U.S. regulations require that repositories for CO2 must be carefully selected and rigorously evaluated by geologists, geophysicists and engineers. (See:http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class6/gsregulations.cfm) In order to store fluids and gases, the rock must have the right properties. For example, the rock into which the CO2 is injected must be permeable and have adequate space in the rock pores to accommodate large volumes of fluids. This injection formation must lie in geologic structures beneath an extremely thick sequence of impermeable rocks that can trap the CO2. The minimum depths of injection must be greater than a half-mile in depth, and typically equivalent to several times the height of the new One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the U.S.
Finally, the US Geological survey has investigated the capacity of deep US geologic formations to store CO2. It estimates 500 years of capacity for CO2 at today’s emissions rates. (See: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2013/3020/)
So, to set the record straight, geologic storage is a proven technology that does not require the mineralization of the CO2 to ensure permanence, as the MIT press release incorrectly states. The key to safe and permanent storage – past, present and future – is deep injection of CO2 below thick, impermeable geologic strata.
This is a cross-post by guest author Camilla Svendsen-Skriung with ZERO.
These days some long awaited good news in the world of carbon capture and storage is coming along in Norway.
The CO2 capture test project that Heidelberg Cement/Norcem started spring 2013, has recently been accepted to prolong their research till 2016. The cement production stands for 5% of the CO2 emissions worldwide. It is therefore good news that the European Cement Research Academy (ECRA) and Norcem are successful frontrunners in the development of the mitigation technology on cement factories. The project in Brevik, Norway, capturing 10 000 tonnes CO2 a year, is testing four different technologies and Norcem reports that the results so far are even better than anticipated. The project is funded by the Norwegian state by 75% and is seeking to upscale and develop the whole chain of CCS, if further funded and if the state takes responsibility for developing the storage part.
In Kollsnes, near Bergen, EnPro is developing a facility which will use CO2 from the exhaust at the BKK gas power plant, to make soda ash. The soda can for example be used for soap, glass and paper. The Norwegian public enterprise Enova is funding the project with 40 million kroner, and EnPro are these days preparing the area where the facility will be built. Kollsnes BKK is producing power and heat based on waste gas from Gasnor's LNG plant. The CO2 emission is just over 30.000 tonnes per year. To use CO2 for different products can be a way of reducing emissions connected to fossil energy and industry, especially if it is further developed and even stored at the end of a life syclus. Projects like this are, in this context, very valuable.
This is a post by guest author Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage, SCCS, director, University of Edinburgh.
News from the United States this week could not have been more welcome: President Obama has sidestepped the US Congress to push through much-needed plans to curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. With around 40% of America’s electricity still being generated from coal, the significance of this move cannot be downplayed.
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan lays down the rules for cutting CO2 emissions by 30%, from around 1,600 power plants, by 2030. That the
world’s largest economy has taken this momentous decision marks a turning point in how that country perceives the threat of dangerous climate change. Indeed, every developed economy worldwide must take similar action to tackle greenhouse gas emissions or face both the physical and financial impacts of global warming.
The decision to follow through on the EPA’s proposals also suggests that President Obama’s administration believes the technology needed to abate these emissions – in other words, carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is ready to build and operate. This is in sharp contrast to the UK, where the civil service has achieved all the preparatory work in record time, yet the Government is playing a ‘go-slow’ game with its CCS Commercialisation Programme - and is yet to make any final investment decision onwhether to back two full-chain CCS demonstration projects.
The EPA is setting a good example by using regulatory instruments to drive progress on CCS, and emissions reductions from existing power plants. Here in the UK, the Emissions Performance Standard (EPS), legislated in the 2013 Energy Act, requires CCS on any new coal-fired power station – but the government has chosen not to apply EPS to existing coal power stations, or to emissions from existing and future gas-fired power generation. These new US rules show that emissions performance standards can drive change on existing sources of emissions in the coming years. The UK could consider using its existing EPS law, in order to greatly accelerate progress on the large-scale deployment of CCS technology.
At SCCS, we continue to point out that the two UK demonstration projects for CCS – even if they secure the necessary funding from HM Treasury to place the first spade in the ground – are still not enough to allow the UK to meet its carbon targets in the most cost-effective way. The UK must begin building at least 30 more such projects by 2025 to avoid incurring extra costs later. By doing so, alongside developing a sizeable CO2storage asset, the UK can future-proof itself against the 100% certainty of carbon taxes and global change.
Unfortunately, follow-on CCS projects in the UK are still stalling due to uncertainty and a drawn-out bureaucratic process. Three fully commercial – and at one time lauded – full-chain CCS projects await the UK Government’s use of market powers, which already exist, to kickstart development. All of these projects feature IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) technology that would use coal or other feedstock to create electricity, and initially use aquifers for storage – though all could pipe CO2 offshore to produce additional oil recovery from depleted fields, thereby storing carbon whilst meeting some costs through oil tax revenue.
This week’s developments in the US signal a shift towards enforcing CCS on all power plants, on at least a proportion of their power generation. We also know that CCS projects waiting in the wings are considering both pre- and post-combustion capture technology. So is the UK Government over-regulating prospective CCS developers? Will the provisions made to support CCS within a revised electricity market instead prevent innovation and learning, which any fledgling industry needs to streamline technology and bring down costs?
Critics in the US have claimed that the new rules will cause power plants to close and electricity prices to rise. In the UK, a select committee of elected MPs – brought together to examine progress on CCS to date by the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change – released its report last month. It concluded that developing CCS technology would reduce wholesale electricity costs in 2030 by 20%, but that progress towards that objective was exceptionally slow. And the UK Energy Technologies Institute has calculated CCS will halve the economy-wide extra cost of delivering low-carbon power by 2050. So there are few excuses remaining to delay the deployment of CCS. This decision by the US administration is an acknowledgement by one of the world’s most powerful nations that CCS is both essential and achievable.
Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) is an independent research partnership of British Geological Survey, Heriot-Watt University, University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh. Its researchers are engaged in high-level CCS research as well as joint projects with industry, with the aim of supporting the development and eventual commercialisation of CCS as a climate mitigation technology worldwide.
This is a GCCSI Insights cross-post written by Chris Smith, ENGO Network on CCS coordinator.
How important is public engagement to carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects? According to participants at a February 26 Education Outreach Workshop at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, very. It can ultimately mean the success or failure of a project.
Mike Fernandez with the Government of Alberta welcomed those from industry, government, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics and other stakeholders, who gathered to glean lessons learned from various case studies, research and other recommendations important for future CCS communications efforts.
Workshop goals included:
- facilitating discussion in North America on the importance of educational outreach materials on CCS
- improving access to current best practices
- creating networks for future collaborations.
From my perspective, here are six key takeaway lessons from the workshop:
- K12 Education: One of the greatest challenges in K12 education outreach is the lack of awareness among teachers and education boards on energy, especially CCS technology. Helping to develop curriculum resources, as well as showing teachers where CCS fits into their required curriculum can be key to educating the educators. Among the tactics recommended for public education and outreach, partnering with a regional public broadcasting network in one case yielded significant results and led to the creation of a successful Teacher Training Program.
- Resources: The number of resources and initiatives related to CCS is increasing. It includes college and professional schools, project websites, research consortia, environmental groups, school curriculum resources and more.
- Challenges: You need a certain amount of energy literacy – in the climate change context and where energy comes from – before you begin educating people on CCS. Outreach challenges can include a concept called “strategic apathy,” where the audience has to navigate competing information needs, interests and topic complexities. Of course, budget constraints are an ongoing challenge.
- Communications materials: Visual materials can be powerful, especially print or digital publications that show at a glance – to scale – the depths of geologic sequestration. Also, audiences continue to ask for more interactive communication materials such as video, websites, and other multimedia.
- Five steps for community engagement: 1) understand the local community context; 2) exchange information about the project; 3) identify the appropriate level of engagement; 4) discuss project risks and benefits; and 5) continue engagement through the project life cycle. As highlighted in the World Resources Institute's Guidelines for Community Engagement.
- What the public wants: Demonstrate early, project transparency and accessibility. Recent research also showed that education materials should be succinct and address 'what if' questions (eg, what if there’s a leak, what if there’s an earthquake?). Respondents were satisfied once these kinds of risks were addressed.
After the workshop I asked a couple of participants for their feedback. One of them said, “We have a strong understanding of how to communicate information about CCS to a variety of audiences – and about how to engage local communities where projects may be sited – but more resources are needed to develop next generation approaches that leverage today's technology and reach people in today's digitally-connected world.” Another commented, “It was nice to find that there is a lot of commonality.” Personally, I’m encouraged by workshops such as this. The need for increased communications continues to be an ongoing theme in all aspects of CCS, and one that must surely be addressed for ultimate project success. Also, many thanks are due to the Global CCS Institute and the Canadian Government for hosting this collaborative and beneficial forum.
For more workshop details, links to participant presentations can be found below:
Update on the Global CCS Institute’s Educational Outreach Program:
- Meade Harris, Senior Advisor – Capacity Development & Public Engagement – Americas Office, and Kirsty Anderson, Principal Manager – Public Engagement – Global CCS Institute - Educational Outreach Workshop - Focus on Alberta and Saskatchewan
Experts Perspectives on current educational outreach experiences:
- Sarah Wade, Chair of the Regional Partnership Outreach Groups – Overview of existing resources and current initiatives
- Dan Daly, Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership – PCOR Partnership educator outreach and collaborative activities with Prairie Public Broadcasting.
- Lori Gauvreau, Schlumberger - Using visualizations of geological sequestration as aids to public understanding and a tour of the sequestation.org website.
- Sarah Forbes, WRI – Guidelines for Community Engagement in Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport, and Storage Projects & NGO perspective
Update from the ‘Creating Core Messages’ group:
- Norm Sacuta, Communications Manager – Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC)
Experience from early CCS/CCUS demonstration projects on outreach work & next steps:
- Quest Project – Adrienne Lamb and Tim Wiwchar
- SaskPower - Rhonda Smysniuk
- Aquistore – Aleana Young, PTRC
This is a cross-post by guest author Teodora Serafimova with Bellona.
The reality of the carbon bubble is becoming ever more pronounced. Following the filing of a resolution by Shell, whereby it committed itself to publishing detailed analyses of how its business plans go hand-in-hand with climate change objectives, it has made an announcement to decommission its North Sea oil platform, the Brent Delta. This in turn could translate into good news for the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.
dramatic decline in the oil price has resulted in big cuts in North Sea oil
exploration and acceleration in the decommissioning of related infrastructure.
Shell, one of the major oil companies involved in these developments, has
recently announced plans to begin decommissioning the Brent Delta platform,
weighing 23,500 tonnes and standing higher than the Eiffel Tower. (Read more on
the reality of the carbon bubble and stranded assets here).
Shell plans to transport the platform by sea to Teesside for onshore demolition. Rig decommissioning may cost €20 billion over the next decade and 60% of those costs will ultimately be borne by the government through tax relief, getting economic and environmental value matters.
Recent research undertaken by Green Alliance which assesses the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways of treating old rig infrastructure, concludes that the decommissioning of oil platforms could offer some promising opportunities for CCS. The study argues that the optimal treatment of old oil rig infrastructure would be not to remove it all, but rather repurpose it as part of a new CCS network. This would not only lower the cost of decommissioning, but would also facilitate the deployment of CCS and render it more cost effective. The viability of pipeline reuse for CCS infrastructure has already been demonstrated by the Peterhead CCS project. In order to deliver this effectively, careful planning of the links between potential sources and sinks, and collaboration across the oil and gas sector around the shared use of infrastructure would be required.
Bellona strongly supports the repurposing of oil and gas infrastructure for the development of CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. A growing CO2 storage industry has the potential to maintain high skilled employment across the North Sea as the hydrocarbon industry shrinks. This offers promising opportunities for the recently launched Teesside Collective project, which will transport captured CO2 emissions via a shared pipeline network for permanent storage beneath the North Sea.
This is a cross-post by guest author Teodora Serafimova with Bellona.
Major energy-intensive industrial plants in Teesside have launched their
vision of accommodating Europe’s first Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
equipped industrial zone. Teesside Collective aims to capture CO2 emissions and
transport them via a shared pipeline network for permanent storage beneath the
North Sea. Besides reaffirming the UK’s leadership position in industrial CCS
development, retrofitting CCS in Teesside would entail significant benefits in
terms of maintaining and growing the country’s industrial base and workforce,
as well as ensuring climate change objectives are met.
What makes the Teesside Collective project different from other CCS projects in the UK is its focus on industrial emissions rather than emissions from electricity generation. Teesside represents 58% of the UK chemical industry and the Northeast process industries contribute around €35 billion/year to the UK economy. The region also accommodates the UK’s 25 most emission-intensive plants and regional emissions per person are almost three times the national average. By capturing 90% of the emissions, CCS would shield companies in Teesside from rising carbon permit costs.
“For several energy-intensive industries, CCS as the only available technology to reduce emissions sufficiently in the foreseeable future” notes Jonas Helseth, Director at Bellona Europa, welcoming the launch of the Teesside Collective.Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Enterprise Partnership, has been awarded €1 million by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop a business case for deploying industrial CCS in the Teesside cluster and to make recommendations for a funding mechanism. This is to be completed by the summer of 2015.
Initial findings of engineering work on the site suggest that the project is feasible. Retrofitting the CCS technology to the four anchor projects’ different industrial processes, namely steel, ammonia, hydrogen and polyethylene terephthalate production, is operationally and technically feasible. What is more, Teesside is optimally located for the transportation of the carbon to permanent storage facilities under the Central or Southern North Sea.
Equipping the Teesside industrial zone with CCS would offer the benefit of reconciling the UK’s climate change and re-industrialisation objectives. Besides maintaining and expanding the industrial base and workforce, CCS would make an important contribution to reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. In fact, a number of recent legislative outcomes and influential reports, such as the EU’s Energy Roadmap to 2050 and the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report have confirmed the essence of CCS technologies and negative emissions, attained via Bio-CCS, to halt global temperature increase to 2°C.
This is a ZeroCO2.No cross-post written by Camilla Svendsen-Skriung, a member of the ENGO Network on CCS.
Wired claims that environmentalists are
actively working against CCS in an article this week, but the ENGO Network on
CCS has promoted CCS as a part of the climate solution since 2011.
Wired magazine published a thorough article about clean coal this week. They argue, as do several international organizations like the IEA, that the world needs clean coal in addition to renewable energy to meet the future energy needs. However, the article also claims that environmentalists have lobbied hard against the technology and that the technology is being scoffed by the same group.
It is true that some NGOs are sceptical towards CCS, and that some even work and argue against it. But that is only part of the picture.
As would be expected, our organisations approached CCS with caution, says Camilla Svendsen Skriung, political adviser in ZERO and member of the ENGO Network on CCS.
Several environmental NGOs oppose CCS because they consider storage to be unsafe and that CCS expands the usage of fossil fuels and displaces renewable energy sources. In the light of this it is important for those ENGOs who accept that CCS is necessary to reach the two-degree goal to cooperate and to be well coordinated. This is the background for establishing the ENGO network.
The international ENGO Newtwork on CCS has established an efficient information channel for environmental organisations that work with CCS and is a solid platform for a united voice in international forums.
Having a network for environmental organisations that view CCS as a climate solution is invaluable. These 10 reputable ENGOs are central figures in the international climate battle. By working together, having a united voice and standpoints, they become a stronger political force internationally. Thus these organisations can support each other’s work to influence national authorities and other stakeholders.
After a long and careful study of the available science, we have concluded that CCS can be carried out safely and effectively, provided it is adequately regulated. Our conclusions are based on, and are backed by, an overwhelming consensus of the scientific literature and prominent research institutions, Skriung Svendsen continues.
Good and thorough articles on CCS are always welcome, but one should recognize that several environmental NGOs acknowledge CCS as a part of the climate solution.
This is a cross-post written by Ida Sofia Va, web journalist for ZERO. She writes about CCS-related topics for www.zeroco2.no.
ZERO recently released a report about policy instruments for large-scale CCS, which offers a thorough analysis of the policy-making instruments and suggestions on how to best implement CCS in Europe.
CCS has been met with some major setbacks lately, but it is not because of the lack of available technology. We know how to do it, but the problem seems to be on the policy-making side of CCS, says Camilla Svendsen Skriung, Policy Adviser for CCS in ZERO.
Once we create a market mechanism for CCS, the conditions for the industry will improve. We suggest a shared responsibility system, where the producers of fossil fuels have the obligation to buy a certificate from the developers of CCS projects. This way the industry will have an incentive and a possibility to deploy CCS.
Considerable improvements in framework conditions are required to trigger sufficient development and implementation of CCS. In order to meet this major challenge, ZERO has carried out an analysis to contribute to bringing CCS instruments onto the political agenda and closer to implementation.
The overall target of the report is to carry out a study of policy instruments for realisation of large-scale deployment of CCS, to identify the instruments best suited and to propose specific recommendations for the way forward towards sufficient large-scale CCS implementation.
The report is part of ZERO’s work to achieve the necessary deployment of large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS), as one important mitigation solution to solve the climate challenge.
There are many studies concerning the question of how to ensure the technological up-scaling of CCS and instruments for this learning phase, but we have gone one step further and considered the following question: What are the policy instruments that will take development beyond the first demonstration projects, to the several hundreds of CCS projects?
For large-scale industry applications as CCS, 2020 is nearly here and 2030 is not far away. Long-term predictable frameworks are crucial to boost the speed of needed investments and development. Short-term challenges are important but must not take the focus away from putting long-term policy instruments in place.
In order to ensure large-scale deployment of CCS, ZERO considers a mix of instruments indispensable: at the core, an instrument giving sufficient incentive to make business cases for CCS viable and trigger investments in deployment and innovation. For industry to embark on large-scale investments, a long-term predictable framework is needed. The best policy instrument for up-scaling of CCS deployment to emerge from this analysis is a CCS certificate system combined with an appropriate EPS. The certificate system finances the cost for CCS deployment through a cost-sharing model, while the EPS sets a very clear regulation, stopping investments in high-emission conventional solutions.
ZERO hopes, and thinks, this work will be of interest and contribute to spark the deployment of CCS on a large scale. The next step is of course to develop an effective framework for CCS, and not the least: to implement it and get it to work.
Link to the report: http://www.zero.no/publikasjoner/policy-instruments-for-large-scale-ccs.pdf
This post was written by David Hawkins, NRDC Director
of Climate Programs, and originally appeared on GCCSI's Insights.
I came away from the Global CCS Institute’s eighth annual Members' meeting in Seoul earlier this month with a feeling of frustration that I sense many attendees shared. Though I suspect the reasons for my frustration may differ from many of the other attendees.
At the meeting, there was much discussion of the
sluggish pace of carbon capture and storage (CCS) deployment and the modest
level of government support for CCS – a level most participants believe is well
below what is needed to get more of the first commercial round of CCS projects
financed and built.
There was little in the way of assessment of the reasons for this state of affairs and this is what has been on my mind since the meeting. In my view, the general lack of support, both political and financial, for CCS can be tied to two large factors: the attitude of most governments and industries regarding the need for serious, near-term action to abate climate-disrupting emissions – an attitude which is a mixture of lip service, indifference, and outright hostility; and the attitude of most environmental organisations toward CCS – a mixture of vocal support from a few and indifference and outright hostility from many.
This piece is to suggest what I think industry leaders can and must do to help change the situation.
First, industry leaders need to decide it is time to go all in on the matter of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation policies. The truth is that most governments will never provide the level of support that pioneer CCS efforts need and most businesses will never spend the private capital required until the world’s biggest emitting countries embrace serious mitigation efforts. Industry’s stance on this matter is critical. Without active support for serious policies from business, governments will continue as they have for too long, with tentative, toe-in-the water programs that fail to provide the policy framework to make CCS viable as a meaningful part of a strategy.
Many business people of good faith have hesitated to organise a serious advocacy effort for GHG mitigation because they fear the policies that may be adopted will harm their business interests. This stance, while understandable, ignores the growing reality that ignoring climate disruption poses even greater risks to business interests, especially in the energy area.
Many in the fossil fuel sector say they want technologies like CCS to be perfected before they can endorse policies that would make such technologies a rational best practice. But this creates a chicken and egg dilemma, where hesitation on the policy front creates hesitation on deployment of technologies like CCS. In my view, if business waits until political pressures to deal with climate disruption are so enormous that governments are forced to respond, the policy chicken that emerges is not likely to be designed to lay many CCS eggs. If there has been no meaningful political constituency developed for CCS, why would one expect policymakers to prioritise CCS when they respond to demands for action?
Which brings me to the second big problem that business needs to confront more effectively: the fact that the core constituency for action to protect the climate – environmentalists, clean energy advocates, progressives – are mostly either lukewarm or hostile to CCS. This is not a new point; it is one I have made repeatedly to business audiences going on 15 years now.
Part of the reason for the persistent hostility from the "green" community is their view (mostly accurate) of the fossil fuel sector's position on climate protection. Given the mixture of opposition and hesitation to emission abatement policies from this sector, the view of the "green" community is that CCS is not really a tool to enable serious emission cuts but is rather the premise for an argument to delay adoption of climate protection policies. A cursory Google search will produce far too many examples of fossil fuel spokespersons arguing that policy change must await the further development of CCS, a development that seems always to be a decade or more in the future.
In the US, we are witnessing the latest example of the "CCS yes, but not yet" syndrome. In response to the US Environment Protection Agency's (EPA) proposal to base emission limits for new coal plants on partial CCS, most in industry are declaring that this move means the death of coal and are busy creating a record of claims that CCS is just not ready.
US fossil fuel interests are at a crossroads with this rulemaking. If they persist in an effort to block the EPA"s rule by attempting to create a drumbeat that CCS is not an available technology, the result may be to further disenchant the green community and the public at large with the idea that CCS might be part of the climate protection solution set.
Another barrier to acceptance of CCS by the green community is the belief that if CCS is employed it will be at the expense of greater reliance on energy efficiency and renewables resources. Here again, I think there are things the proponents of CCS can do to reduce this conflict. (I am not suggesting there is nothing the green community can do to ease this conflict but the audience for this post is largely made up of CCS proponents.)
Part of the reason the green community sees CCS as a threat to efficiency and renewables is that CCS proponents often make the case for CCS by arguing that renewables are, and always will be, too expensive to get the job done. But this is not a proposition that many in the green community are going to accept as a given. Hence an argument that relies on this claim is not likely to be persuasive.
There are a couple of lines of argument for CCS that are more persuasive (to me at least). The first is a gap-closing argument. Why not examine the most ambitious scenarios of renewables penetration in the literature and calculate the cumulative emissions from fossil energy use and other GHG emissions while renewables are being brought to the requisite scale? Under any scenarios with which I am familiar, there will be a very large amount of cumulative emissions under the best of circumstances. Every tonne of that cumulative "residual" adds to the risk of serious climate disruption. If CCS could reduce that residual substantially, why wouldn’t one want to include it in the solution set?
This post was written by George Peridas of NRDC and originally appeared in NRDC Switchboard on Oct. 12, 2013.
The Global Carbon Capture & Storage Institute (GCCSI) just released its latest Global Status of CCS annual report, underscoring once again the important role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in a world where fossil fuels continue to supply the bulk of our energy needs and where drastic reductions in carbon pollution are urgently needed. It also summarizes the status of the technology, recent progress, and needed actions by decision makers to make CCS a meaningful climate mitigation strategy.
The report is very readable and self-explanatory, but a couple of points are worth bringing out since they can be counter-intuitive or surprising to some.
“CCS technology is well understood, and a reality”
Contrary to claims being made in reaction to U.S. EPA’s new Carbon Pollution Standard for new power plants that CCS is not yet commercially available, the GCCSI report underscores that “[i]n reality, the technology is generally well understood and has been used for decades at a large scale in certain applications.” More evidence is in the report itself and under Dan Lashof’s recent post here. Instead, GCCSI identifies that “[i]nsuffcient policy support is a key barrier”.
This is hardly surprising. In fact, we have been saying this for years now: Without a clear policy signal to the private sector and some government support for early projects, CCS technology will not achieve the scale of deployment needed to make a dent in tackling climate change. However, policy makers continue to get it wrong, with the most striking current example being Europe, as my environmental NGO colleagues outline here.
“More projects are entering operation and construction”
We should be buoyed by the Institute’s findings on the project front. Even though the market and policy pieces are not there yet for broad deployment, considerable and important progress is being made in capturing CO2 from large applications and injecting it underground. As recently as 2008, we routinely spoke of a handful or so of CCS flagship projects. Despite some project cancellations over the past year, which are normal events in the project development world, the number of operational and soon-to-be-operational CCS projects has grown significantly.
Since 2008, the number of large-scale integrated projects that are operating has doubled from six to twelve. Four commenced operation in 2013 alone, and three of these are in the U.S. Eight more projects are either under construction or about to begin, and are expected to become operational in 2014 and 2015. Several more are in the permitting or investment decision phase.
And the winner is…
North America. The Institute identifies the U.S. and Canada as the two countries where CCS pilot project development is most prolific at the moment (see p.36-37). The region is hosting several of these projects as a result of government support for the technology, opportunities to pursue enhanced oil recovery alongside the projects, and sufficient technical and regulatory know-how. Several projects have come online recently, and more will be doing so shortly, including power sector projects. These include the Kemper County IGCC (MS), Boundary Dam (SK), Air Products (TX), Coffeyville (KS), Lost Cabin (WY), Texas Clean Energy Project (TX), Alberta Trunkline (AB), Shell Quest (AB) and others (more details in the report). We should keep this in perspective though.
The commendable progress on these pilot plants should not be an excuse for us to take our eyes off the real goal. We are still a long way off the pace and scale of CCS development needed to curb carbon pollution in a meaningful way, and the Institute underscores this. Government funding alone will not achieve this – we need accompanying limits on emissions and emission performance standards such as those being contemplated by EPA right now.
What then should be the main take-away from the report? Unquestionably, that governments – not scientists or engineers – have the most work to do to make CCS a reality more broadly. Stakeholders have to help governments move faster. In the meantime however, let’s not overlook the significant progress that is being made by pilot and commercial-scale projects. The fleet is growing and field results continue to be positive. But we must move even faster to safeguard our atmosphere.
This post was written by Chris Smith, coordinator of the ENGO Network on CCS.
North America is a leader in the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage with seven of the world’s 12 operational large-scale integrated projects located in the United States and one in Canada, according to a new report released by the Global CCS Institute.
Even with these projects, “The
Global Status of CCS: 2013 Report” acknowledges that global momentum has been too
slow if CCS is to play a significant part in combating climate change at the
Chapter topics in the report include policy, legal and regulatory developments, the business case, and public engagement, which features the ENGO Network on CCS. This chapter includes a section called “Improving Communication and Collaboration” and states that environmental nongovernment organisations (ENGOs) “tend to be highly influential advocates because they are generally perceived as independent, credible, and motivated to act in the best interests of the public (Terwel et al., 2011). As such, it is in the best interests of ENGOs and CCS proponents to engage in an ongoing dialogue and find common goals in working toward the broader climate change mitigation objective.”
In a sidebar, ZERO's Camilla Svendsen Skriung explains our ENGO Network on CCS approach: “As would be expected, our organisations approached CCS with caution … after a long and careful study of the available science, we have concluded that CCS can be carried out safely and effectively, provided it is adequately regulated. Our conclusions are based on, and are backed by, an overwhelming consensus of the scientific literature and prominent research institutions.”
The Global CCS Institute released the report today at its annual international members’ meeting in Seoul, North Korea. ENGO Member David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council is attending the meeting and will write a blog summary from his perspective, so be sure to visit this site again soon.
This post was written by Ida Sofia Vaa, web journalist for ZERO, who writes about CCS-related topics for www.zeroco2.no. She has project management experience from higher education and research organisations in Norway and the U.S., from freelance writing and translations and the feminist radio station RadiOrakel in Oslo. She is currently located in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is still viewed by some as only a theoretical solution to creating cleaner energy and industry, but the technology is already here and has been used for years. This is not rocket science; the technology is quite straightforward. Any engineer will tell you that CCS is basic knowledge within the scientific community. So the issue is not the lack of technology or experience, but the lack of commitment from policymakers to push for CCS in all industries using fossil fuels. The ENGO Network on CCS’s goal is to inform and influence decisions makers to make policies that support a more widespread use of CCS where it works best.
CCS has been around for decades. The first CCS project was established in Lubbock, Texas, in the early eighties This was the first gas plant with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture, selling CO2 for beverages and for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), and there have been several successful CCS projects around the world since then. In fact, oil companies have injected and geologically trapped more than a billion tons of CO2 over the last four decades. And as CCS is beginning to be applied to electricity generation, commercial vendors are now offering performance gauntness for carbon capture on power plants.
Canada is one of the leading countries when it comes to CCS, and the North American-based projects Great Plains Synfuels Plant (Dakota Gas) and Weyburn-Midale CO2 Project (Cenovus and Apache Energy), are some of the largest projects today. Synfuels began to capture carbon in 2000 to supply the Weyburn field with CO2 for EOR. Great Plains Synfuels plant uses a pre-combustion technique to capture 3 million tonnes of CO2 per year, and Weyburn-Midale stores up to 30 million tonnes of CO2.
Another large and successful project is the one in Shute Creek, Wyoming. The operation in Shute Creek started in 1996, and now captures 7 million tonnes of CO2 every year from natural gas. The CO2 is transported to several oil and gas refineries for EOR, especially to Salt Creek, which is the largest EOR project in the US.
Air Products in Port Arthur, Texas began carbon capture in 2011 and is a project that mitigates the CO2 emissions from an industrial application, in this case hydrogen. It is one of several examples of industry, like cement and steel too, taking care of its greenhouse gases (GHG) the only way possible, namely using CCS technology. This project captures 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year, and the CO2 is used for EOR projects.
There are two CCS power projects under construction that are slated to begin in 2014. SaskPower is retrofitting CCS onto its existing Boundary Dam plant,120MW unit that will capture 1 million tons per year. Southern Company is building a new power plant that will capture more than 2 million tons per year. Both projects are using EOR for storage.
Not all CO2 is can be used for EOR though, most of it has to be stored offshore or underground without being used at all. CO2 used for EOR has to be permanently stored at the end of operation as well. One of the largest storage projects outside North America is the Sleipner field off the coast of Norway. Statoil has captured CO2 since 1996 and stores it 800 meters under the seabed. The storage site has been continuously monitored for safety reasons, but also for researchers to learn how the CO2 behaves under pressure beneath the sea. The Sleipner field has stored more than 15 million tonnes of CO2 since startup.
The experience and knowledge gathered from these and other projects around the world only confirms that CCS is working, and it is working well.
Another pushback on CCS relates to cost. The technology is expensive to implement, and may add extra costs for the retailers who buy energy from fossil fuels. The cost depends on the type of emission, the capture technology used, the distance to the storage site, the qualities of the storage site, whether the emission source is built with capture from day one or capture is retrofitted to an existing emission source, and variable costs like prices on materials and availability of real estate. The greatest expense relates to its application to power and industrial sources that are at the beginning of the cost/experience curve. While the technology has been used on sources like natural as processing for decades, it has only recently begun to be used on sources such as power plants.
The cost decreases when the technology becomes more widespread and so will the energy loss. Building common infrastructures for storage that can be used by many different emission sources reduces costs of storage. Improvements in technology increase efficiency and reduce costs.
CCS today is dependent on some level of government subsidy or other kinds of support to be economically feasible. However, as with all technologies, as new projects are built, the costs will go down. In order to move these technologies off of subsidies, it is important to set emission standards or CO2 prices at a level that will drive deployment. By using national, regional and global policy measures, we can create a virtuous circle, where emission/CO2 price levels help drive deployment, which drive costs down, which in turn catalyzes broader market and regulatory and drivers – to the point where CCS is widely deployed on a global scale.
Questioning CCS technology is no longer an excuse to not implement CCS for industries where fossil fuels are being used.
This post was written by Chris Smith, coordinator of the ENGO Network on CCS. It originally appeared May 31, 2013 on Insights, a GCCSI online publication.
Members of the ENGO Network on CCS gathered
last week in Edinburgh, Scotland, for their annual retreat, which coincided
with the launch of Moving CCS Forward in Europe, a white paper examining
the current status of CCS in Europe, why policy efforts have stalled and
recommendations for improving momentum.
Lead author Chris Littlecott with E3G
talked about the paper and how environmental NGOs could help advance public and
political dialogue during a panel session on communicating CCS at Thursday’s
Global CCS Institute Europe, Middle East and Africa Members' Meeting.
“To move CCS forward in Europe, we need
to look beyond the limits of the current bureaucratic imagination,” Littlecott
said, adding that politicians and policymakers could benefit from creation of
new policies focusing on how CCS could boost low-carbon competitiveness and job
ENGO members from Bellona Foundation and ZERO are co-contributors to the report, which also includes ideas on how EU-wide and Member States policy incentives could work together to accelerate action on CCS, as well as a look at how Norway might be able to cooperate further with the EU given its established CCS leadership aspirations.
Points of emphasis made at the ENGO
retreat also seemed to parallel those made by speakers at the Institute's
meeting. For example, discussions at both meetings included comments lamenting
the lack of global political leadership around CCS; a recognition that public
understanding of this technology could be improved through better and increased
communication; and a collaborative desire to propagate messaging surrounding
CCS’s integral role in overall energy and renewables discourse.
So what did we take away from our
Scotland retreat and and the Institute's meeting? Comments and impressions
include the following:
- Perhaps the most important
recurring theme to come out of the Institute's Members' Meeting in
Edinburgh this year has been the pressing need for strong political leadership
on CCS. Through targeted international collaboration and information
sharing, the ENGO Network is working to address this need. It's goal: to
work with political decision makers and other key stakeholders to provide
the political commitment and regulatory frameworks so desperately needed
to unlock investment in CCS.
- Procrastination on CCS now will
greatly reduce the performance and even the possibility of reaching
effective climate goals later.
- The ENGO retreat is a priceless
experience to connect, learn, and collaborate with colleagues from around
the world. The retreat framed my NGO work in an international context and
I was able to learn from the experiences of other nations’ initiatives and
- It is worthwhile noting that
both meetings included discussion on the potential for emissions
performance standards to be a critical driver of CCS.
- We need to talk more about the
role CCS can play in helping the natural gas sector reduce emissions.
My favorite quotes were from former executive director of the International Energy Agency’s Claude Mandil, who gave closing remarks at the Institute's meeting and a call to action for all attendees: “Be consistent, insistent and persistent. There is absolutely no future without CCS being a part of it.”
This post, contributed by ENGO Network Member Paal Frisvold, originally appeared March 20, 2013 on Bellona's online site.
The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced the two preferred bidders under its € 1.2 billion CCS (CO2 Capture and Storage) competition today, 20 March. “This will bring the UK to the forefront in the development of cost-competitive CCS industry in Europe”, says Paal Frisvold, Chairman of the Board, Bellona Europa, “the British developments will bring us one step closer to discover the costs and technological solutions needed to demonstrate CCS on a commercial scale”.
Today’s announcement is excellent news for Bellona and the whole CCS community. CCS projects taking off the ground is what is needed the most at the moment, especially after NER300 failing to deliver any CCS funding in its first round. It is clear that the UK will now be at the forefront of the European CCS investment, moving in the direction of cost competitive CCS industry.
The White Rose Project in Yorkshire, England, and the Peterhead Project in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, were chosen from a shortlist of four after an intensive period of commercial negotiations.
The White Rose is an oxyfuel capture project at a proposed new 304MW fully abated supercritical coal-fired power station on the Drax site in North Yorkshire. The project involves capturing 90% of the CO2 from a new coal-fired power station, before transporting to and finally storing it in a saline aquifer beneath the North Sea.
The Peterhead Project would capture 85% of the CO2 from part of the existing gas fired power station at Peterhead. The CO2 would then be transported and stored in depleted gas fields beneath the North Sea. Peterhead has previously been considered for a CCS project in the mid 2000’s.
future of the UK CCS Competition
The € 1.2 billion of capital funding made available under the UK CCS Commercialisation Competition will support the practical experience in the design, construction and operation of commercial-scale CCS. More specifically the funding is meant to:
- generate learning that will help drive down the costs of CCS;
- test and build familiarity with the CCS specific regulatory framework;
- encourage industry to develop suitable CCS business models; and
- contribute to the development of early infrastructure for CO2
transport and storage.
Following today’s announcement UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, said that “[this] moves us a significant step closer to a Carbon Capture and Storage industry – an industry which will help reduce carbon emissions and create thousands of jobs”.
The Government will now undertake discussions with the two preferred bidders to agree terms by the summer for Front End Engineering Design studies, which will last approximately 18 months. A final investment decision will be taken by the Government in early 2015 on the construction of up to two projects.
For more information on CCS and prospective project, please visit Bellona’s CCS web.
The latest climate talks in Doha ended a month ago and the gulf between what science says is needed to protect the climate and countries’ commitments to cut emissions is larger than ever. Where might one find forces that could help break the logjam? Perhaps, in some surprising places.
First, a précis of how much of a jam we are in. Just a few weeks before the Doha meeting, the International Energy Agency (IEA), in its World Energy Outlook, accurately summarized the science of what needs to happen to global emissions if the 2oC target is to remain an option. In short, the world needs a carbon budget. To preserve just a 50 per cent chance of keeping global temperature increases to no more than 2oC, IEA concludes the world can emit a cumulative total of 679 billion metric tonnes (Gt) of CO2 from energy use between 2012 and 2035. IEA calculates that 81 per cent of this budget will be consumed by equipment (power plants, factories, buildings, vehicles) already operating today, if these facilities operate for their normal useful lives at their current emission rates.
Now, having only 19 per cent of the 2oC budget left for all new capital investments for the next two decades is daunting enough but IEA points out that this remaining headroom will disappear in a flash without additional policy action. IEA projects that the new investments under a future where the world’s governments carry out only the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation pledges made to date (what IEA terms the New Policies Scenario), means that the entire remainder of the 2oC budget would be locked-in only five years from now, in 2017. Thus, if we delay just five more years, to keep the 2oC option alive, even as a 50-50 proposition, “after 2017 any new power plants, industrial plants, new buildings, road vehicles or water boilers that consume fossil fuels could be built only if existing infrastructure were retired early to the extent necessary to offset emissions from the additional infrastructure” (IEA, WEO 2012 at 265).
The message from IEA is clear: the world’s major emitting countries cannot wait for international negotiations to wind their way to a potential new agreement before they step up the pace of their own efforts to cut emissions. And the IEA report points out some important no-brainer steps that could be taken immediately. Leading the list is a comprehensive program to adopt all known, technically-feasible energy efficiency measures that are also economically viable (IEA used a set of assumptions of reasonable payback periods for energy efficiency investments to define economic viability). IEA’s Efficient World Scenario summarizes what this program would achieve:
- significantly slow the burn rate of the remaining 2oC budget, buying another five year grace period to 2022 before the 2oC budget would be fully committed
- boost cumulative global economic output by $18 trillion through 2035, with the largest GDP boosts occurring in the world’s biggest emitting countries (China, US, India, OECD Europe)
- cut growth in global primary energy demand in half compared to the New Policies Scenario
- reduce oil demand in 2035 by 12.7
million barrels per day, cutting the oil-import bills of the five largest
importers by 25 per cent (IEA, WEO 2012, Chapter 10).
This is an agenda that governments and private sector actors should get behind without delay. It requires policies to break down non-market barriers as detailed in the IEA report. But the environmental and economic payoffs are clear and do not depend on the willingness of countries to agree on next steps in international negotiations.
While energy efficiency is the long pole waiting to be picked up, as we take those actions, we need to increase our attention to other potentially powerful tools to protect the climate. Of course, this includes efforts to accelerate deployment of renewable energy resources. But today’s market share of these resources is so small that even phenomenal renewables growth rates mean that we will continue to use a great deal of fossil energy—much more than a safe carbon budget allows.
This prospect brings us to carbon
capture and storage (CCS). My colleague, Camilla Svendsen Skriung, has blogged on a recent white paper describing
what is required to help make CCS into a serious tool in the climate protection
toolbox. The paper was authored by a number of environmental NGOs (including
NRDC where I work).
Let me sketch some thoughts on the strategic importance of CCS, both to climate protection campaigners such as myself, and to those we are routinely combating, particularly fossil fuel producers. For essentially the entire period since the climate policy debate began more than two decades ago, our operating frame has been that of a zero-sum game: if fossil-fuel producers win, climate protection loses and vice versa. And there are powerful reasons for that paradigm to have taken hold. Indeed, the IEA’s latest report contains figures that reinforce that paradigm in many quarters. Consider this jaw-dropping comparison of the cumulative emissions budget for a 2oC target with the CO2 emissions embodied in today’s proven reserves of fossil fuels: to keep a 50-50 chance of holding onto 2oC, IEA calculates the world can emit 679 Gt of CO2 from fossil fuels from now to 2035 (with another 205 Gt out to 2050). But the public and private owners of fossil fuels have already proven reserve holdings of coal, oil, and gas with nearly 2900 Gt of potential CO2 emissions. So today’s proven fossil reserves outweigh a sane climate protection budget by three to one.
Note we are not talking about abstract concepts of ultimately recoverable resources here. Proven reserves are assets owned by today’s operating enterprises and governments, which are capable of being brought to market with today’s technologies and prices. If these institutions perceive that protecting the climate means abandoning more than two-thirds of these assets, it is not difficult to explain their role as a primary roadblock to meaningful action on climate change. Similarly, it is easy to understand why the environmental community, in general, regards an end to the use of fossil fuels as the only plausible path for climate protection. The problem with this paradigm from the environmental perspective is that it encourages policy paralysis, which is what we have endured with rare exceptions for the past decades. The problem with this paradigm from the fossil fuel producers’ perspective is that climate disruption continues even if policy is frozen. Politicians may ignore climate change but natural systems do not; and nature bats last. Continuing to block meaningful action will not insulate fossil fuel reserve holders from the accumulating risk of 'anti-fossil fuel' policy responses to the inevitable harmful impacts of a climate that has been driven off the rails by accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere.
In this context, CCS has the potential to be a disruptive technology. CCS can introduce a new degree of freedom into the solution set for human societies: climate protection need not be tied ineluctably to how fast the world reduces its use of fossil fuels. This is not to argue that we can or should continue the current level of dependence on such fuels. We should not. But if the availability of CCS as a tool can hasten the day when the world takes climate protection seriously, that is a good thing. But can CCS play a helpful role in bringing down the wall that separates the world of political action from the world of climate science? Many of my friends in the environmental community are sceptical that it can and there are ample grounds for that scepticism. To date, too many in the fossil fuel industry have used CCS as a shield against climate policy action rather than embracing it as an enabler of action.
But this could change if private and government fossil fuel reserve holders come to terms with the reality of a finite carbon budget and its implications. While the world today is not behaving as though there is a finite limit on the amount of carbon that can be released from fossil fuel use, this can change with little advance notice. Firms and governments that hold those reserves have no way to predict when that change will happen. And the reality of the finite carbon budget is that the later that change occurs, the more extreme will be the impact on the operations of fossil fuel producers. The world is not just burning up the carbon budget at an accelerating rate; it is burning up the lead-time that fossil fuel producers would like to have when the inevitable policy-awakening for climate protection occurs. Fossil fuel producers could gamble that the allure of their products will continue to be so powerful that policymakers and the public will just accept an increasingly disrupted climate rather than act to constrain fossil fuel use. But the more astute will recognize that this is an increasingly bad bet. For those actors, CCS can be understood as a powerful tool to reduce the carbon budget burn rate and provide a more manageable transition.
The broader investor community will soon grasp these facts. The value of their investments in fossil fuel producing companies is dependent in significant part on the assumption that each firm will be able to turn their proven reserves into a reliable revenue stream. Some of these investors, especially large institutional investors, may be quicker to understand and accept the reality of a finite carbon budget. For them, divestment of fossil fuel holdings becomes not just an ethical proposition but a way to reduce financial risk. If such divestment takes hold, it will become a powerful external force for fossil fuel owners to change their behaviour. In addition, regulators like the US Securities and Exchange Commission will be pressed to require more substantial disclosure and quantification of these risks. Similarly, shareholder resolutions pressing for action plans from company management are likely.
The actions fossil reserve holders need to take to reduce the risks of stranded reserves go far beyond contributing modest amounts to help finance the occasional pilot or demonstration CCS project. Rather, fossil fuel producers as a group must recognize that they actually need a climate policy regime that will leave space in the carbon budget by cutting the carbon burn rate now. That will include policies that enable commercial-scale CCS operations to become economically competitive. That will require some combination of performance standards, carbon pricing and probably initial subsidies for pioneer projects. If fossil fuel producers put serious political muscle behind adoption of such policies it would serve their own interests as well as help break down the wall of inaction on climate protection.
Note: This post was written by Chris Littlecott, a Senior Policy Adviser at E3G and a Policy Research Associate with Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, and originally appeared on the Greenpeace UK blog Energydesk.
She made her list and checked it twice, and finally decided who was naughty or nice. European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard played Santa just before Christmas, awarding €1.2bn of funding for 23 innovative renewables projects across Europe. But frozen out of this funding round were projects aiming to demonstrate carbon capture and storage (CCS) at commercial scale.
This is hugely embarrassing for European efforts to address climate change, and particularly for the UK. For the creation of the ‘NER300’ mechanism was agreed back in 2008-09 following British diplomatic efforts and cross-party political leadership. Indeed, the UK submitted 7 of the original 13 CCS projects originally under consideration. As late as October 2012 the UK still had 4 projects out of the 8 vying for funding.
So what went wrong?
One senior European Commission official (who should know better), has been heard to say that ‘CCS is dead’. This is simply not true. The technology for CCS is alive and kicking. Commercial scale capture projects are under construction in Canada and the USA. Injection of CO2 into deep geological formations continues onshore in the USA and offshore by Norway. China is rapidly developing pilot projects of its own, and is set to invest $1bn in a CCS project in Texas. Of course there is still a long way to go, but the problem isn’t the technology.
Here in Europe, CCS projects looking to receive funding from the NER300 were scrutinised and ranked by the European Investment Bank (just as the renewables projects were). Then member states were asked to confirm which projects they would support, together with the level of co-funding they would contribute.
The French government confirmed co-funding for the proposed steel mill CCS project at Florange, only for ArcelorMittal to withdraw at the last minute. The Florange plant was the host location for a CCS demonstration on behalf of a wider consortium of European steel producers. CCS offered the prospect of job retention and a value-added, low-carbon product. The unions are right to be furious.
Other governments performed less well. The Dutch government came too late with a revised offer to support their proposed Green Hydrogen project. The Romanian government had taken positive steps by introducing a feed in tariff for CCS, but were unable to commit funding given an impending election and a fight with the European Commission about EU budget spending. The Italian economy is struggling and its project is behind schedule. Poland meanwhile has been staying close to its broader strategy and holding out for more funding. That leaves us with the UK: the EU member state best-placed to deliver CCS.
A promise unfulfilled
Let’s rewind to the closing months of the last Labour government. After the great success of the Kingsnorth coal campaign, Ed Miliband recognised that there would be ‘no new coal without CCS’. Energy Act 2010 was then enacted with cross-party support, creating a dedicated levy for CCS. This was projected to raise around £11bn over 15 years to support a programme of 4 CCS demonstration projects and associated infrastructure. The Act also required government to regularly report on progress made on power sector decarbonisation and the demonstration of CCS. The first report was quietly published on 20th December 2012. It refers to the development of proposals for Electricity Market Reform, and presents data on power sector emissions in 2010 and 2011. But the real story of what has occurred is entirely missing.
When the coalition government took office in 2010, it promised not only to be the ‘greenest government ever’, but also that it would be ‘First Choice for Investment in CCS’. All-too-quickly, however, these aims were undermined by decisions from Treasury and delays from DECC.
The newly-agreed CCS levy was pulled by Treasury. The negotiation of the first CCS competition ended without award to the last-standing Longannet project. A further year was lost before a new CCS commercialisation competition was launched, but at last it looked like the timelines for decisions under the UK and EU competitions would align. But to great disappointment and surprise, the only firm decision made by DECC in October 2012 was to kick out 2CO’s proposed Don Valley project, with neither firm selections of projects nor confirmation of funding made to the other bidders. Doubts continue over the availability of capital funding in this spending period.
So when it comes to delivering on the agreed rules of the EU’s NER300 programme it is the UK government who has most visibly failed to deliver. Yes, CCS projects are different than renewables, and yes, the co-funding requirements are an order of magnitude larger. But EU funding was there for the taking, and the UK failed to grab it.
New year, new approach
Early action on CCS would have helped European policy makers accelerate decarbonisation of both power generation and industrial emitters. This would have increased political confidence in the desirability and deliverability of European climate policy. But the economic crisis has accentuated the foot-dragging approach of many fossil fuel interests and highlighted weaknesses in the policy framework. Smarter policy choices are required to rebuild momentum and unlock political support for CCS.
At EU level, there needs to be a pause for breath rather than a headlong rush into the second round of NER300 funding. The original approach favoured CCS projects on coal and lignite, but a focus on CCS on gas and industrial emitters would provide greater value to the European economy and support existing technological leadership. Adjusting these criteria would take a few months, but the wait could be worth it. With the EU looking to strengthen the ETS in the meantime, not only could the business case for CCS be improved, but additional funds might become available from the auctioning of the remaining 100 million allowances in the NER300 pot. Member state co-funding would be easier to secure too with more time available.
In the UK, decisions in the new year can also make all the difference. After losing the strong hand of cards it held just 2 years ago, DECC needs to craft a can-do approach that strengthens its chances of success. It must lift its eyes to the bigger picture and communicate a vision of how CCS will play a catalytic role in enabling the low-carbon economy. It must start by supporting all 4 of the UK’s remaining projects through the next stage of detailed engineering development, and fast-track action to create regional CCS development zones. The Energy Bill should complement this by bringing gas plant into the scope of the Emissions Performance Standard by 2030 at the latest.
Policy choices along these lines would inject some new energy back into the CCS sector. And a fresh approach that focuses on industrial benefits, job retention potential and a clear commitment to decarbonisation would also help win new friends. 2013 begins with a need for strengthened resolve to make CCS happen in Europe. Let’s make it happen.
Note: This post is written by Bruce Hill, Ph.D., Senior Geologist with the Clean Air Task Force.
In the December 2012 issue of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a published letter by
MIT researchers Ruben Juanez, Howard Herzog and Brad Hagar (see: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/12/05/1215026109.citation)
provides several geophysical counter-arguments to a 2012 PNAS Perspectives
piece by Stanford researchers Mark Zoback and Steve Gorelick questioning the
viability of sequestering commercial volumes of captured CO2 and an attendant
potential risk of induced seismicity.
Zoback and Gorelick maintain that much of the deep basement rock across North America is at critical stress – a point at which a perturbation, such as commercial CO2 injections, could cause failure and induced seismicity. However, in their letter, Juanez et al. counter that most of the earthquake hypocenters (the focal point of the rock rupture and earthquake in the subsurface) are far deeper than the saline formations that would accept CO2 for storage, and that the rock properties in the shallow crust would accommodate stress rather than rupture. Moreover, they point out that in highly seismic areas, such as in southern California, that geologic traps have held buoyant CO2 for millions of years.
Finally, Juanez et al. point out that the Mountaineer project example that Zoback and Gorelick cite is not representative of the many excellent saline formations that could accept commercial volumes of captured CO2 and that site selection is essential to successful storage. Zoback and Gorelick have, themselves, responded with a letter countering Juanez et al.'s views. However there is more to the debate than the rock mechanics.
While this healthy scientific debate focuses on the geophysical aspects of injection of commercial volumes of CO2 into saline aquifers, there is a broader set of considerations that must be incorporated into a rational dialogue on the ability of North American geology to accommodate commercial-scale carbon storage. For example, injection of CO2 into depleted petroleum reservoirs, with known capacities, injectivity and infrastructure could accommodate many decades of captured CO2.
According to a 2012 National Academy of Science report, there have been no cases of observed humanly perceptible induced seismicity associated with CO2 injections associated with enhanced oil recovery, which has successfully taken place for four decades. Moreover, associated with these formations are brine formations that offer large volume, "stacked storage"–managed CO2 injection and storage in sandstones or carbonate rocks above or below the producing intervals in oil fields. Other storage options include offshore reservoirs in the Gulf Coast, being studied presently by the University of Texas, or management of subsurface reservoir pressures via production of formation water such that they never reach a critical state of stress. Furthermore, specific EPA geologic sequestration rules require that operators inject CO2 at pressures that would not induce rock failure.
All told, while regulators should take care to ensure that significant induced seismicity does not occur, there is ample evidence, beyond the geophysics, that many decades of CO2 can be accommodated by North America's geologic resources.