Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Reports & Information On The Future Of Carbon Capture & Storage

May 8: A new report from the Worldwatch Institute discusses the future of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and indicates that growth of the technology stalled out in 2011. The report indicates that funding for CCS technology, a tool for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, remained unchanged at US$23.5 billion in 2011 in comparison to the previous year. Although there are currently 75 large-scale, fully-integrated carbon capture and storage projects in 17 countries at various stages of development, only eight are currently operational -- a figure that has not changed since 2009

    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 $2.5–3 trillion will need to be invested in CCS between 2010 and 2050 to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by mid-century.
  • On average, $5–6.5 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.
    In related information, Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released a 26-page report entitled, "Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy." The report indicates that on March 27, 2012, U.S. EPA proposed a new rule that would limit emissions to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour of production from new fossil-fuel power plants with a capacity of 25 megawatts or larger. EPA proposed the rule under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. According to EPA, new natural gasfired combined-cycle power plants should be able to meet the proposed standards without additional cost. However, new coal-fired plants would only be able to meet the standards by installing CCS technology.
    The proposed rule has sparked increased scrutiny of the future of CCS as a viable technology for reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. The proposed rule also places a new focus on whether the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) CCS research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) program will achieve its vision of developing an advanced CCS technology portfolio ready by 2020 for large-scale CCS deployment.
    Congress has appropriated nearly $6 billion since FY2008 for CCS RD&D at DOE's Office of Fossil Energy: approximately $2.3 billion from annual appropriations and $3.4 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or Recovery Act or Stimulus). The large and rapid influx of funding for industrial-scale CCS projects from the Recovery Act may accelerate development and deployment of CCS in the United States. However, the future deployment of CCS may take a different course if the major components of the DOE program follow a path similar to DOE's flagship CCS demonstration project, FutureGen, which has experienced delays and multiple changes of scope and design since its inception in 2003. A question for Congress is whether FutureGen represents a unique case of a first mover in a complex, expensive, and technically challenging endeavor, or whether it indicates the likely path for all large CCS demonstration projects once they move past the planning stage.
    Since enactment of the Recovery Act, DOE has shifted its RD&D emphasis to the demonstration phase of carbon capture technology. The shift appears to heed recommendations from many experts who called for large, industrial-scale carbon capture demonstration projects (e.g., 1 million tons of CO2 captured per year). Funding from the Recovery Act for large-scale demonstration projects was 40% of the total amount of DOE funding for all CCS RD&D from FY2008 through FY2012.
    To date, there are no commercial ventures in the United States that capture, transport, and inject industrial-scale quantities of CO2 solely for the purposes of carbon sequestration. However, CCS RD&D in 2012 is just now embarking on commercial-scale demonstration projects for CO2 capture, injection, and storage. The success of these projects will likely bear heavily on the future outlook for widespread deployment of CCS technologies as a strategy for preventing large quantities of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere while U.S. power plants continue to burn fossil fuels, mainly coal.
    Given the pending EPA rule, congressional interest in the future of coal as a domestic energy source appears directly linked to the future of CCS. In the short term, congressional support for building new coal-fired power plants could be expressed through legislative action to modify or block the proposed EPA rule. Alternatively, congressional oversight of the CCS RD&D program could help inform decisions about the level of support for the program and help Congress gauge whether it is on track to meet its goals.
    Access an overview of the Worldwatch Institute report and link to information on access the complete report (click here). Access the complete CRS report (click here). Access the Global CCS Institute website for more information (click here). Access the Department of Energy CCS website for more information (click here). [#Energy/CCS, #Climate]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals