Boost technology 100-fold — or else, report warns

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Deployment of carbon capture technology needs to increase at least 100 times to meet global emissions targets under the Paris Agreement and avoid dangerous warming, according to a report released this morning.

The Global CCS Institute, an international organization backing the technology, found in its annual report that there need to be about 2,500 CCS facilities operating by 2040 to hold temperatures at manageable levels. There currently are 17 large-scale carbon capture facilities online.

The institute based its estimates on information from the International Energy Agency, which concludes that about 14 percent of emissions reductions in coming decades need to come from the technology to meet international temperature targets.

The institute assumed the 2,500 facilities would capture about 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 annually, close to what is occurring at an operational plant in Texas.

“The challenge still remains to ensure that CCS receives the same consideration and incentivization as other clean technologies, particularly renewables,” said Global CCS CEO Brad Page in releasing the report at the U.N. climate conference in Bonn, Germany.

The report documents several trends for CCS:

  • China is becoming a major player with the technology. It has eight large CCS facilities in various stages of development, and funding and research on CCS in the country are “hitting new heights.” This year, it began construction on Yanchang Petroleum’s industrial facility, which will capture more than 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually from two coal gasification plants. The report notes that support from the Chinese government has fostered development.
  • Four projects are set to come online next year, but none are in the United States. They are in China, Australia and Canada. Australia, for example, is planning the largest geological storage facility in the world by injecting carbon dioxide underneath Barrow Island offshore, with the greenhouse gas coming from natural gas processing.
  • The United States brought several big projects online this year, including the world’s largest retrofit of a coal plant with carbon capture technology at NRG Energy Inc.’s Petra Nova plant in Texas. The world’s first “negative emissions” plant also became operational in Illinois at an ethanol plant operated by Archer Daniels Midland Co. (Greenwire, April 7).
  • There are no projects on power plants under construction or in advanced stages of development. Instead, initiatives moving forward aim to capture carbon dioxide form industries such as oil refining and fertilizer production. Cost has been a major challenge for capturing CO2 from power plants.

The U.S. projects that became operational, such as Petra Nova, received Department of Energy funding. With budget cuts proposed and money no longer available from the 2009 stimulus package, there’s been a push from advocates to create or expand new financial incentives, to ensure that the United States doesn’t cede its place as a leader with CCS.

Earlier this month, a coalition of coal companies, oil interests and environmentalists sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Finance Committee urging inclusion of expanded CCS tax credits in tax reform legislation. Current bills in the House and Senate do not include new incentives for CCS, although that could change.

At the same time, some environmental groups have been pushing the other way and telling lawmakers that expanded CCS credits would not help the environment (E&E Daily, Nov. 8).

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is a vocal backer of CCS, although it remains unclear what specific proposals might emerge, considering uncertainty about the federal budget.

Last week, Perry signed onto a pledge at the IEA ministerial meeting calling for more investment in carbon capture technology and more government-industry partnerships to speed up deployment.

The IEA announced a summit next year where officials will develop a more detailed work plan for technologies that capture, store and use human-generated carbon dioxide.