CCS, refers to the technology that attempts to capture carbon dioxide from its anthropogenic source -- often industry and power generation systems -- and then store it in permanent geologic reservoirs so that it never enters the atmosphere. The United States is the leading funder of large-scale CCS projects, followed by the European Union and Canada. The Worldwatch report, part of the Institute's Vital Signs Online series of analyses of environmentally related trends and data, discusses a number of new CCS projects and facilities throughout the world. Among these is the Century Plant in the United States, which began operating in Texas in 2010.
Report author and Worldwatch Sustainable Energy Fellow, Matthew Lucky said, "Although CCS technology has the potential to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions -- particularly when used in greenhouse gas intensive coal plants -- developing the CCS sector to the point that it can make a serious contribution to emissions reduction will require large-scale investment." Today, the total storage capacity of all active and planned large-scale CCS projects is equivalent to only about 0.5 percent of the emissions from energy production in 2010. Lucky said, "Capacity will have to be increased several times over before CCS can begin to make a serious dent in global emissions."
Worldwatch indicates that the prospects for future development and application of CCS technology will likely be influenced by a number of factors. Last March the U.S. EPA imposed regulations on CO2 emissions from power plants. As a result, U.S. power producers will soon be unable to build traditional coal plants without carbon control capabilities (including CCS). The technology will therefore likely become increasingly important as power producers adjust to the new regulations.
Globally, an international regulatory framework for CCS is developing slowly and the technology has been addressed in international climate negotiations. Its classification as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) -- a mechanism created through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to allow industrialized countries to gain credit for emissions reductions they achieve through funding development projects in developing countries -- has raised objections, however, from those who argue that it risks prolonging the use [of] carbon-intensive industries.
Worldwatch President Robert Engelman said, "CCS technology is worth exploring as one of a large array of potential strategies for slowing the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. But as this report demonstrates, right now there's little progress in realizing this potential. A technology capable of permanently sequestering large amounts of carbon will be expensive, and so far the world's markets and governments haven't assigned much value to carbon or to the prevention of human-caused climate change. Ultimately, that will be needed for progress in CCS development and implementation."
Further highlights of the report include:
- There are now 7 large-scale CCS plants currently under construction, bringing the total annual storage capacity of operating and under constructions plants to 34.97 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.
- According to the International Energy Agency, an additional $2.53 trillion will need to be invested in CCS between 2010 and 2050 to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by mid-century.
- On average, $56.5 billion a year will need to be invested in CCS globally until 2020 for the development of this technology.
- About 76 percent of global government funding for large-scale CCS has been allocated to power generation projects.
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