The Pros and Cons of Carbon Capture
By admin April 9, 2019

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EDITOR’S NOTE: TBG maintains a Global Consultancy Network of 500+ experts in 150+ countries. To access TBG’s Energy/Cleantech & Environment practice group, just send an email.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that in 2040, 60 percent of primary energy generation will still come from fossil fuels, despite acceleration in renewable generation, as fossil fuels currently satisfy 81 percent of today’s primary energy demand. In many debates, this is where Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) is seen as a means of fending off climate change until the world has substantially reduced its reliance on fossil fuels.

CCS is a technology allowing up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions to be caught, preventing them from entering the atmosphere. The CCS chain consists of three parts: capture, transportation and storage. In fact, all captured carbon is securely stored underground in depleted oil and gas fields or deep saline aquifer formations (porous rocks filled with salty water). Since the use of fossil fuels in industrial processes and electricity generation produces a good amount of carbon dioxide, CCS has been extremely helpful in both pre and post-combustion capture, separating the carbon from the gases produced during these processes. With further development, CSS may even become one of the few carbon abatement technologies that can be used in a ‘carbon-negative’ mode, actually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Brad Page, CEO of the Global CSS Institute, estimates that we will need at least 2000 CSS facilities in operation by 2040 to achieve targets set by the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. However, there are currently only 18 facilities that are complete and functional. As a result, debates have sprung up in the energy space, with one side advocating heavily for immediate, large-scale deployment of CSS technology, as not only is it considered a viable solution to keep the world within its 2040 carbon budget, but it comes with the added benefit of creating jobs for onsite fossil fuel workers facing redundancy.

On the other hand, new research suggests that developing renewable energy infrastructure and storage may be a better investment than CSS in combatting climate change. A team of researchers from Lancaster University have calculated energy output after CSS installation across a range of power stations and compared the results with the energy return on energy invested into renewable generators that are  combined with storage systems. Ultimately, they discovered a reduced net energy output from power stations with CSS, as the worst cases of renewables with storage compare to the best examples of CSS. They concluded that investment in renewable energy is therefore more likely to meet emission targets, and that CSS should be considered a “niche and supplementary contributor” rather than a “critical technology option.”

Therefore, while both sides of the debate provide compelling cases for the relevant technologies, it is clear that investment will play a key role in the fight against climate change. Whether public or private, financing appears to be one of the biggest enablers in developing new methods and technologies for reaching 2040 on our current carbon-constrained budget. However, until that time, both CSS and renewable generation will have continued importance in the clean tech space, and it is vital that policymakers acknowledge this in order to ensure sufficient research and capital investment is put into deployment. In our current context of increasing emissions, this may be the only approach that realistically enables us to meet our climate goals.

EDITOR’S NOTE: TBG maintains a Global Consultancy Network of 500+ experts in 150+ countries. To access TBG’s Energy/Cleantech & Environment practice group, just send an email.

For more information:

Bloomberg New Energy Finance: Clean Energy Investment

A Compelling Case for Carbon Capture and Storage

CSS Association Website

Global Landscape of Renewable Energy Finance

Lancaster University Research: Renewables are a better investment than carbon capture for tackling climate change

Thanks for sharing !

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