Information about Carbon Capture and Storage - CCS
CCS is the fossil fuel industry’s bid for a solution to the climate problem. CCS is often called a transition technology – a bridging technology – into a distant future when the world may switch to renewable energy.
This website discusses a number of issues related to CCS.
CCS is not a single technology but a complex of technologies aimed at capturing CO2 at power plants or large industries for subsequent storage underground.
CCS is currently still in its pilot stage, but slowly on the way to the demonstration stage. Energy companies and many politicians still envisage a vital role for CCS in the fight against climate change. For many years CCS was linked mostly to electricity generation at coal-fired power plants but today industrial CCS attracts much interest.
The idea of CCS, however, raises a number of problems and issues. Among the most important are:
· Timing – will CCS be able to deliver the required CO2 reductions within the required time frame?
· Environmental effects – the predominant fuel of the CCS technology will inevitably be coal, which in itself has serious environmental effects. CCS will only increase these effects.
· Climate effects – CCS does not remove all CO2 emissions from a plant. The amount of CO2 that is not removed will in itself have huge climate effects. Viewed over time and including all CCS-equipped plants the climate effect is minimal.
· Economics – the technology is extremely expensive.
· Financing – the private sector is unlikely to pay for the development of CCS. Taxpayers are assumed to provide crucial financial support.
· Liability – future generations will inherit the CO2 storage sites and costs associated with monitoring, maintenance and remediation of spills and leakages.
· Energy planning – CCS has the potential to be a significant competitor to renewable energy technologies with respect to financing. The extra cost of CCS implies that it will tend to run 24/7 and therefore it will not play well together with an energy system that integrates more and more intermittent renewable energy .
On this website we will attempt to throw some light on these issues. We do not pretend to know all the answers. But we have seen it as a challenge to call attention to a number of unresolved problems and unanswered questions that the CCS technology raises.
What is CCS?
CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage or Carbon Capture and Sequestration) consists of a number of complex technologies tied together to capture the CO2 from e.g. a coal fired power plant, compress it and transport it and finally inject it into the underground. However, it is often referred to as one technology - and for simplicity's sake we will also do so.
CCS requires geological formations which are sufficiently porous for the CO2 to be stored. At the same time there must be a dense layer above the storage to prevent the CO2 from seeping upwards, causing environmental adverse effects and eventually escaping into the atmosphere.
A climate tool?
CCS is presented by proponents as a climate tool, by which you can store many decades of emissions of CO2. CCS has had much political tailwind, which is undoubtedly related to the fact that there are huge economic interests at stake. For companies and countries dependent on coal, oil and gas, CCS is a golden opportunity to continue the black industry.
CCS has perhaps the largest single lobbying force to date comprising:
countries that produce fossil fuels;
many of the countries that consume coal, oil and gas;
the companies that produce fossil fuels;
political parties all over the world;
bodies like the OECD, IEA and the EU;
IPCC, the UN’s climate panel, which published a special report on CCS in 2005 and continues to have confidence in CCS as a mitigation tool;
thousands of researchers in state and private universities and institutions;
several dedicated lobbying organizations and networks;
engineering and consulting firms;
suppliers of key technologies;
journalists and media
Despite all the support CCS has proven less successful than was assumed just a few years ago. This applies globally and it includes the EU, where quite a lot has been done to promote the technology.
A CCS Directive has been adopted and in the major EU Energy and Climate Package 2008 huge funds were allocated in the form of free allowances to support demonstration plants to be in operation by 2015. The ETS has proved unable to withstand the effects of the economic crisis – the EU’s flagship in the climate battle is run aground and it might come up again only by tinkering with the system by way of the so-called backloading proposal that withdraws a number of allowances temporarily. The bottom line is that CCS is not really progressing in the EU.
In Norway the Mongstad refinery and gas power plant was planned to be equipped with CCS. But in September 2013 the Norwegian Government decided that the project will not be realized. A decision that has been reiterated in October 2014 (by the new government).
In Denmark there were plans for a CCS project at Nordjyllandsvaerket, a large combined heat and power plant owned by Vattenfall. It was planned without public debate, but met strong resistance from the population around Aabybro – Brovst where the storage was planned.
NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark, SustainableEnergy and Greenpeace were engaged in resistance along with the very active local association No to CO2 storage. After two years of struggle the government in 2011 withdrew its support.
In September 2011 the new Minister of Climate, Energy and Buildings, Martin Lidegaard, issued a final refusal to Vattenfall.
But like his predecessor Lidegaard kept a back door open for Maersk Oil and other oil companies wanting to use CO2 to increase oil production in the North Sea using the so-called CO2-EOR method.
The method is called CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery , CO2 – EOR. It is well proven in the US. Since the 1970’es it has been used to push more oil out of the ground.
While the method is economically attractive for companies it is very bad seen from a climate point of view because even more oil and gas is produced, refined and burned. This results in the emission to the atmosphere of four times as much CO2 as will be stored.
Economic benefits in producing even more oil can thus become the incentive for the CCS technologies to get started. Over time the expectation is that some CO2 will be stored but the climate argument is no longer the most important.
Oil and coal to stay
CO2 EOR is also financially attractive to states like Denmark because it will prolong oil taxation. It is tempting for a government, even if it has committed itself to go to rehab for the fossil addiction.
This also applies to S–SF–R-government, with its recently (2013) published Growth Plan for Energy and Climate will “promote the optimal use of the Danish oil and gas resources in the North Sea“ and “together with industry, work on that making a long-term strategy on a commercial basis to implement the optimization of oil and gas fields in the North Sea.“
Simultaneously the Government will pursue its energy vision "Our Energy", which states that the Danish energy supply should be free of fossil fuels by 2035.
NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark asks: How can this be reconciled?
Storing CO2 underground will boost CO2 in the atmosphere
If CCS is chosen as a major strategy to reduce carbon emissions from large coal fired plants, nearly 90% of emissions expected between 2010 and 2050 from these plants would still reach the atmosphere, according to a new report from NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark.
The pdf-version of the report is available from this link: An Assessment of Cumulative CO2 Reductions from CCS