Should Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Technology Be Developed?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The US Department of Energy (DOE) stated the following on its webpage titled "Carbon Sequestration FAQ Information Portal," available at the National Energy Technology Laboratory website (accessed Sep. 14, 2009):

"Carbon capture refers to the separation and capture of CO2 from emissions point sources or the atmosphere and the recovery of a concentrated stream of that CO2 that can be feasibly stored (sequestered) or converted in such a way as to mitigate its impact as a greenhouse gas. For all practical purposes, it entails the capture of CO2 from stationary sources, such as fossil fuel-fired power plants and industrial facilities. Research efforts are focused on systems for capturing CO2 from coal-fired power plants because they are the largest stationary sources of CO2. Although current R&D emphasizes CO2 capture in coal-fired power plants, the carbon capture technologies to be developed will apply to natural gas-fired power plants and industrial CO2 sources as well...

Carbon sequestration is the placement of CO2 into a repository in such a way that it will remain permanently sequestered...

Geologic sequestration involves injecting CO2 into underground reservoirs that have the ability to securely contain it."

Sep. 14, 2009 - United States Department of Energy (DOE) 



PRO (yes)

George Monbiot, Visiting Professor of Planning at Oxford Brookes University, wrote in his 2007 book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning:

"[E]ven if we continued to produce most of our electricity from burning fossil fuels, we could, at least in theory, cut carbon emissions by 80 or 85 percent. The technology that would make this possible is called 'carbon capture and storage.'

This means stripping the carbon out of the fuel either before or after it is burnt, and burying it in the hope that it will stay where it's put...

There are good reasons to suppose that once carbon dioxide has been properly buried in the right sites, it will stay where it is put...

I have come to believe that this technology... can, with sufficient political commitment, be widely deployed before 2030. The difficulties I have encountered with investigating the other [low-carbon] technologies have persuaded me that carbon capture and storage - while it cannot provide the whole answer - can and must be one of the means we use to make low-carbon electricity."

2007 - George Monbiot 



John Deutch, PhD, Institute Professor of the Department of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ernest J. Moniz, PhD, Director of Energy Studies at the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated in their 2007 study, "The Future of Coal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World," available at MIT's website:

"In order to achieve substantial GHG reductions, geological storage needs to be deployed at a large scale...

A number of geological reservoirs appear to have the potential to store many 100's – 1000's of gigatons of CO2. The most promising reservoirs are porous and permeable rock bodies, generally at depths, roughly 1 km, at pressures and temperatures where CO2 would be in a supercritical phase...

Once in the pore, over a period of tens to hundreds of years, the CO2 will dissolve into other pore fluids, including hydrocarbon species (oil and gas) or brines, where the CO2 is fixed indefinitely, unless other processes intervene. Over longer time scales (hundreds to thousands of years) the dissolved CO2 may react with minerals in the rock volume to precipitate the CO2 as new carbonate minerals...

[I]t is very likely that the fraction of stored CO2 will be greater than 99% over 100 years, and likely that the fraction of stored CO2 will exceed 99% for 1000 years...

Since CO2 is buoyant in most geological settings, it will seek the earth's surface. Therefore, despite the fact that the crust is generally well configured to store CO2, there is the possibility of leakage from storage sites. Leakage of CO2 would negate some of the benefits of sequestration. If the leak is into a contained environment, CO2 may accumulate in high enough concentrations to cause adverse health, safety, and environmental consequences. For any subsurface injected fluid, there is also the concern for the safety of drinking water. Based on analogous experience... these risks appear small...

Our overall judgment is that the prospect for geological CO2 sequestration is excellent. We base this judgment on 30 years of injection experience and the ability of the earth's crust to trap CO2...

The DOE should launch a program to develop and deploy large-scale sequestration demonstration projects."

2007 - John Deutch, PhD 
Ernest J. Moniz, PhD 



George Peridas, PhD, Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, stated in his June 12, 2008 testimony submitted to the Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Unites States House of Representatives Hearing, "Spinning Straw Into Black Gold: Enhanced Oil Recovery Using Carbon Dioxide," available at www.nrdc.org:

"A growing body of scientific research indicates that we face extreme dangers to human health, economic well-being, and the ecosystems on which we depend if global average temperatures are allowed to increase by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit from today's levels. We have good prospects of staying below this temperature increase if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other global warming gases are kept from exceeding 450 ppm (parts per million) CO2-equivalent and then rapidly reduced. To make this possible requires immediate steps to reduce global emissions over the next several decades, including action to halt U.S. emissions growth within the next few years and then cut emissions by approximately 80% by mid-century. This goal is ambitious, but achievable... Fortunately, a wide variety of tools is available today to achieve those reductions – but we will need all the tools at our disposal. One such tool is Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS)...

Given the world's and the nation's dependence on fossil fuels, it is essential to have in place a technology and a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities that burn these fuels, even though their complete phase-out through energy efficiency improvements and a transition to renewable fuel sources might be technically and theoretically possible. Using all available tools is a wise and necessary hedging strategy in the face of the steep emission cuts that are needed. Projections differ as to the exact portion of reductions that will be delivered by different technologies, but from a strategic point of view, CCS provides a much needed answer for fossil fuel use – which is inevitable."

June 12, 2008 - George Peridas, PhD 



The United States Carbon Sequestration Council, a non-profit coalition of scientists, environmentalists, and businessmen supporting the development of CCS technology, stated in its Apr. 2009 publication "Is Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) Needed? How Can We Make It Happen Sooner?," available at its website:

"Petroleum, coal, and natural gas rank first, second, and third in global energy production, and are expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. The current and future use of fossil fuels will continue to generate CO2. There simply is no alternative to using these fuels to meet our basic needs – whether for electricity generation, for manufacturing processes, for meeting our residential needs, or for transportation (including for petroleum refining, hydrogen production, and meeting plug-in power electricity needs). Hence, if we are to reduce GHG [green house gas] emissions significantly, there is no alternative to successful development and deployment of CCS technologies...

CCS is an emerging technology that is essential to the achievement of most long range GHG reduction goals."

Apr. 2009 - United States Carbon Sequestration Council 



John Podesta, JD, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Timothy E. Wirth, PhD, President of the United Nations Foundation, stated in their Aug. 10, 2009 report "Natural Gas: A Bridge Fuel for the 21st Century," available at the American Progress website:

"CCS is the most promising technique to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants...

Because the potential to reduce U.S. carbon emissions is much greater in the existing fleet of power plants than in new ones, any climate policy should ensure that CCS research and deployment efforts focus attention on retrofits of existing plants with carbon capture in addition to developing and deploying new integrated gasification combined-cycle power plants."

Aug. 10, 2009 - John Podesta, JD 
Timothy E. Wirth, PhD 



Byran Hannegan, PhD, Vice President of Environment and Generation at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), stated in his Mar. 22, 2007 testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the "Future of Coal," available at the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources website:

"CO2 capture and sequestration (CCS) will be the critical enabling technology that provides for continued coal use even as we reduce our CO2 emissions...

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies can be feasibly integrated into virtually all types of new coal-fired power plants...

Geologic sequestration of CO2 has been proven effective by nature, as evidenced by the numerous natural underground CO2 reservoirs in Colorado, Utah, and other western states. CO2 is also found in natural gas reservoirs, where it has resided for millions of years. Thus, evidence suggests that depleting or depleted oil and gas reservoirs, and similar 'capped' sandstone formations containing saltwater that cannot be made potable, are capable of storing CO2 for millennia or longer...

Recent EPRI work has illustrated the necessity and the urgency to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies as part of the solution to satisfying our energy needs in an environmentally responsible manner."

Mar. 22, 2007 - Bryan J. Hannegan, PhD 



The International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental energy policy organization, stated in its July 2009 report "Carbon Capture and Storage: Full-Scale Demonstration Progress Update," available at its website:

"The only technology available to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from large-scale fossil fuel usage is carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS). The ETP BLUE scenario [part of the IEA report 'Energy Technology Perspectives 2008'], which assessed strategies for reducing GHG emissions by one-half in 2050, concluded that CCS will need to contribute one-fifth of the necessary emissions reductions to achieve stabilisation in the most cost-effective manner. CCS is therefore an essential part of the portfolio of technologies that is needed to achieve deep global emission reductions."

July 2009 - International Energy Agency (IEA) 



CON (no)

Peter Montague, PhD, Executive Director of the Environmental Research Foundation, stated the following in his Dec. 1, 2008 article "Carbon Sequestration: What's the Point?," available at the Discovery Communications blog website:

"The ideal solution [to global climate change] would be to stop making waste CO2 by phasing out fossil fuels and getting our energy from solar power in all its forms (direct sunlight, wind, and hydro dams). We know how to do this today...

Every engineer knows that avoiding waste is far better than managing waste. So CCS is fundamentally bad design...

Instead of solving the CO2 problem that we've created, CCS would pass the problem along to our children and their children and their children's children. Basically, buried CO2 could never be allowed to leak back out. We should take responsibility for our own problems, not pass them to our children to manage.

Scientists paid by the fossil fuel companies say the CO2 will never leak back out of the ground. What what if they're mistaken? Then our children will inherit a hot, acid-ocean, ruined world.

Sooner or later we're going to run out of fossil fuels - all of them - so eventually we have to adopt solar power. CCS just delays the inevitable - a huge waste of time and money. We should skip CCS and go solar today."

Dec. 1, 2008 - Peter Montague, PhD 



Greenpeace International, an environmental non-profit organization, stated the following in a May 2008 report authored by Emily Rochon et al., titled "False Hope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won't Save the Climate," available at its website:

"Capturing and storing carbon uses lots of energy, anywhere from 10-40% of a power station's capacity. An energy penalty of just 20% would require the construction of an extra power station for every four built. These reductions in efficiency will require more coal to be mined, transported, and burned, for a power station to produce the same amount of energy as it did without CCS. CCS will also use more precious resources. Power stations with capture technology will need 90% more freshwater than those without...

As long as CO2 is in geological sites, there is a risk of leakage. While it is not currently possible to quantify the exact risks, any CO2 release has the potential to impact the surrounding environment; air, groundwater or soil. Continuous leakage, even at rates as low as 1%, could negate climate mitigation efforts...

Spending money on CSS is diverting urgent funding away from renewable energy solutions for the climate crisis... investing in a renewable energy future would save US$180 billion annually and cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050...

The urgency of the climate crisis means solutions must be ready for large-scale deployment in the short-term. CCS simply cannot deliver in time. The technology is highly speculative, risky and unlikely to be technically feasible in the next twenty years. Letting CCS be used as a smokescreen for building new coal-fired power stations is unacceptable and irresponsible. 'Capture ready' coal plants pose a significant threat to the climate.

The world can fight climate change but only if it reduces its dependence on fossil fuels, particularly coal. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are safe, cost effective solutions that carry none of the risks of CCS, and are available today to cut emissions and save the climate."

May 2008 - Greenpeace International 



Mark Disendorf, PhD, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, stated the following in his 2006 article "Can Geosequestration Save the Coal Industry?" published in Transforming Power: Energy as a Social Project:

"Capturing CO2 from existing power stations requires the use of expensive equipment and large quantities of energy, thus reducing overall power station efficiency...

Geosequestration offers the possibility of capturing and storing 80-90% of CO2 emitted from new coal-fired power stations in the long term. However, it would not reduce significantly any of the other environmental, health or social impacts of coal-fired electricity... namely air and water pollution, high water use, land degradation, occupation health and safety hazards...

[I]n countries that have placed strong emphasis on geosequestration in their energy policies, plans for new, conventional, dirty, coal-fired power stations are proceeding apace. In the USA about 100 such power stations are in various stages of development. Assuming that 72 of these projects survive public opposition, the USA would emit an additional 209-275 million tonnes of CO2 per year from coal by 2012...

This situation suggests that that the possibility of large-scale geosequestration, three or more decades in the future, is being used to deflect attention away from the current reality of business-as-usual. Thus, geosequestration is less about sustainable development and more about sustaining the coal industry by greening its image...

[T]he possibility of geosequestration in the future is being used to divert funding away from cleaner technologies that are more cost effective now, notably efficient energy use and renewable energy, and to deflect attention away from current proposals to build many more conventional dirty coal-fired power stations...

[I]t is unwise for governments to allocate to geosequestration the major part of their funding for future energy supply and demand management systems."

2006 - Mark Diesendorf, PhD 



Rainforest Action Network, an environmental non-profit organization, stated the following in a fact sheet on its website titled "The Dirty Truth about Clean Coal," available at www.ran.org (accessed Sep. 17, 2009):

"The concept of CCS is that we can curb climate change by capturing the emissions from coal plants and store them underground, safely away from our atmosphere for eternity. The most glaring flaw in this concept is that CCS technology is not likely to be a commercially viable option for at least another decade, and new coal-fired plants are slated to begin construction now. There are also no working models of CCS at a commercial-scale power plant anywhere in the world...

Proposals for carbon storage locations include underground depleted oil and gas fields, unmineable coal seams, and even in our oceans. Underground storage of the 1.9 billion tons of C02 waste produced annually by U.S. coal plants is hugely problematic and likely impossible. Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal to humans exposed to high concentrations. In 1986, a C02 leak killed nearly 1,800 people instantly in Lake Nyos, Cameroon. The leak was but a tiny fraction of the amount of C02 we would need to store annually from coal plants...

Who pays if sequestered carbon leaks and causes fatalities or other damages? Even proponents of CCS have said the technology won't go ahead unless the federal government assumes full liability. If that happens, our tax dollars would be spent protecting utility companies from bearing both the risk and the cost of coal...

Currently, CCS remains a 'smoke and mirrors' show - keeping attention away from real solutions. With global warming accelerating, we need to make smart energy choices now. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is key to stopping climate change."

Sep. 17, 2009 - Rainforest Action Network 



Vaclav Smil, PhD, Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba, stated the following in his May 2006 statement "Energy at the Crossroads," during the Conference on Scientific Challenges for Energy Research in Paris, available at the University of Manitoba website:

"In 2005 worldwide CO2 emissions amounted to nearly 28 Gt [gigatons]... Sequestering a mere 1/10 of today's global CO2 emissions (< 3 Gt CO2) would thus call for putting in place an industry that would have to force underground every year a volume of compressed gas larger than or (with higher compression) equal to the volume of crude oil extracted globally by petroleum industry whose infrastructures and capacities have been put in place over a century of development. Needless to say, such a technical feat could not be accomplished within a single generation.

The obvious question is why it should be even attempted given the fact that a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions could be achieved by several more rational, mature and readily available adjustments...

[T]technical fixes cannot provide a lasting resolution. History shows that energy demand keeps growing even in the most energy-saturated affluent societies: encouraging worldwide diffusion of this trend (new China, and then India, aspiring to replicate the US) and trying to fill the supply through scientific and engineering ingenuity is not a formula compatible with maintaining a viable biosphere. Obviously, poor countries need more energy; but the rich ones should, sooner, rather than later, think about engineering rational reductions in energy use. All economies are just subsystems of the biosphere and the first law of ecology is that no trees grow to heaven. If we are not going to engineer thoughtful, gradual reductions, we run a considerable risk that the biosphere may do the scaling-down for us in a much less desirable (if not catastrophic) manner."

May 2006 - Vaclav Smil, PhD