Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is being hailed as the answer to the globe's
most pressing question: what to do with the 27 billion metric tons of carbon
dioxide emitted yearly from the burning of fossil fuels? Touted as the most
promising interim solution to deal with the greenhouse gas responsible for
global warming, CCS still remains unproven, costly and will not be commercially
available for another 10 to 20 years. Meanwhile, scientists are exploring
alternatives to CCS by capitalizing on CO2 as a commodity instead of
treating it as a waste.
Twenty-seven billion tons of CO2 is already a hefty number, but
energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to reach 43 billion
metric tons per year by 2030; an increase of 60%. A new report by the
International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that growing energy demands from
emerging giants like China and India, coupled with a lack of cost-effective
alternatives to fossil fuels, means that by 2050, 77% of the world's power will
still be derived from fossil fuels(1).
"We will require immediate policy action and a technological transition on an
unprecedented scale," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said in Tokyo after
releasing the report.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS), the process of capturing carbon dioxide and
storing it in deep geological formations in the ocean or as mineral carbonates,
is being promoted by the IEA and others as the most promising technology to
deal with fossil fuel derived emissions. Not negating the role of alternative
energies, the IEA is merely realistic about the enduring use of fossil fuels
and the urgent need to deal with the resulting carbon dioxide.
Addressing Carbon Capture and Storage
On May 15th, 2009, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced at the
National Coal Council that US$2.4 billion from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act will be used to expand and accelerate the commercial
deployment of carbon capture and storage technology, including financing to
train a generation of engineers and geologists to work in the field.
Chu said, :To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we must accelerate
our efforts to capture and store carbon in a safe and cost-effective way."
Governments in Europe, Australia, Canada and China are also strongly investing
in the technology. Nevertheless, several massive hurdles still stand in the way
of full-scale CCS deployment.
UK consulting firm, McKinsey, figures that adding CCS to the next generation of
European power plants could boost their price by up to US$1.3 billion each.
Their thorough analysis(2) shows that the typical cost of a
demonstration project is likely to be in the range of US$80 ? $120 per tonne of
Legally, there are concerns over whether CO2 transport and long-term
storage present human or ecosystem related risks, and who is ultimately
responsible if a leak occurs. While progress is underway in some countries, no
country has yet developed the comprehensive, detailed legal and regulatory
framework that is necessary to effectively govern the use of CCS.
© 2009. Petroleum Society of Canada (now Society of Petroleum Engineers)
View full textPDF
- Original manuscript received:
11 June 2009
- Manuscript approved:
15 June 2009