Last updated on: 9/24/2020 | Author: ProCon.org

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

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Vincent Gonzales, research assistant, Alan Krupnick, PhD, senior fellow, and Lauren Dunlap, communications specialist, all at Resources for the Future, in a May 6, 2020 article “Carbon Capture and Storage 101,” available at rff.org, stated:

“Carbon capture and sequestration/storage (CCS) is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO₂) formed during power generation and industrial processes and storing it so that it is not emitted into the atmosphere. CCS technologies have significant potential to reduce CO₂ emissions in energy systems. Facilities with CCS can capture almost all of the CO₂ they produce (some currently capture 90 or even 100 percent)…

Deploying CCS at a power plant or industrial facility generally entails three major steps: capture, transportation, and storage.

Several different technologies can be used to capture CO₂ at the source (the facility emitting CO₂). They fall into three categories: post-combustion carbon capture (the primary method used in existing power plants), pre-combustion carbon capture (largely used in industrial processes), and oxy-fuel combustion systems. For post-combustion carbon capture, CO₂ is separated from the exhaust of a combustion process. There are commercially available pre-combustion capture technologies used by industrial facilities; however, for power plants, pre-combustion capture is still in early stages. This technology involves gasifying fuel and separating out the CO₂. It may be less costly than other options; however, it can only be built into new facilities—to retrofit an existing facility for pre-combustion capture would be prohibitively costly. For oxy-fuel combustion, fuel is burned in a nearly pure-oxygen environment, rather than regular air, which results in a more concentrated stream of CO₂ emissions, which is easier to capture.

Once the CO₂ is captured, it is compressed into a fluid and transported to an appropriate storage site, usually by pipelines and/or ships and occasionally by trains or other vehicles.

Finally, in the third step, the CO₂ is injected into deep, underground geological formations, where it is stored long term, rather than being released into the atmosphere. Storage sites used for CO₂ include former oil and gas reservoirs, deep saline formations, and coal beds.”

May 6, 2020

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)

Pro

Jude Clemente, Principal at JTC Energy Research Associates, LLC, in a Feb. 14, 2018 article, “The United States As A Clean Coal Leader,” available at forbes.com, stated:

“So our goal remains the same: help the nation and the world use coal as cleanly as possible. The constant advance of technology is the answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. Thus, we also need to be exporting clean coal technologies.

The centerpiece of which is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), an emerging technology that captures CO2 before it’s released into the atmosphere…

U.S. energy and climate policy must be rooted in practicality, not idealism. The reality is that if we don’t help nations use coal more efficiently, they could easily revert to less efficient technologies such as subcritical plants because they are cheaper…..and thereby increase emissions. ” 

Feb. 14, 2018

Pro

International Energy Agency, in a July 2020 report, “The Role of CCUS in Low-Carbon Power Systems,” available at iea.org, stated:

“Meeting climate and energy goals requires a fundamental and accelerated transformation of power systems globally. Decision makers collectively must support a rapid shift to low-carbon generation while meeting strong growth in power demand, driven by increased energy access in developing economies and electrification of end-use sectors. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (or “CCUS”) technologies can play an important role in this transformation in three ways:

First, retrofitting carbon capture technologies is an important solution to avoid the “lock-in” of emissions from the vast fleet of existing fossil-fuelled power plants while also providing plant owners with an asset protection strategy for recent investments…

Second, increasing variable renewable generation requires dispatchable energy for flexibility and resource adequacy. Batteries and other forms of energy storage are being further developed and deployed, but carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies are also part of the portfolio of low-carbon technologies able to meet the growing need for flexibility (to manage both short-term and seasonal variations). These strategies offer a technological hedge against innovation uncertainty in the power system transformation.

Third, through its combination with bioenergy, carbon capture technologies can enable negative-emission power plants, which may be critical for offsetting emissions in harder-to-abate sectors and to support “net-zero” climate goals.”

July 2020

Pro

Ben Anthony, PhD, Professor of Energy Process Systems, and Peter Clough, PhD, Lecturer in Energy Engineering at Cranfield University, in a Mar. 1, 2019 article, “Is Carbon Capture Storage about to Have Its Day?,” available at greenbiz.com, stated: 

“Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has become the dirtiest phrase in the energy sustainability debate. The costs appear too great, the rewards too temporary. In the past two years alone, six major U.K. projects have been shelved.

However, none of the criticism or lack of will on funding have changed the fact that we need more CCS facilities — and sooner rather than later. That’s why CCS continues to be high on the agenda of a nation such as Norway..

CCS is critical for the interim period as we try to solve the issues of energy storage and reach the state of renewables only.

CCS isn’t a perfect solution — there needs to be substantial financial investment, and there will be ongoing costs. No one is pretending it is a long-term solution, but it is the most cost-effective way the world will be able to meet COP 21 commitments and avoid the hazardous — if not catastrophic — CO2 levels in the environment of 450 ppm and above.

What’s needed now is realism from governments. The most useful role for governments would be twofold: culturally, in demonstrating a commitment to the principle of CCS as both an accepted technology and critical stop-gap for reducing carbon emissions; and secondly, in providing a framework for industry to work with and contribute to.”

Mar. 1, 2019

Pro

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

Pro

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

Pro

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

Pro

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

CON (no)

Con

Dénes Csala, PhD, Assistant Professor at Lancaster University, in an Apr. 8, 2019 article, “Renewables Are a Better Investment Than Carbon Capture for Tackling Climate Change,” available at lancaster.ac.uk, stated:

“The better net energy return of investing in renewable energy makes it more likely to meet emission targets without risking a reduction in energy availability, due to dwindling fossil fuel supplies and a climate-constrained emissions budget.

Given its net energy disadvantages, carbon capture and storage should be considered a niche and supplementary contributor to the energy system, rather than be seen as a critical technology option as current climate agreements view it.”

Apr. 8, 2019

Con

Oakley Shelton-Thomas, researcher at Food & Water Watch, in an Apr. 10, 2020 article, “Sorry, Fossil Fuel Industry. ‘Carbon Capture’ Isn’t A Magic Climate Cure.,” available at foosandwaterwatch.org, stated:

“It’s no secret that we need a radical change in the way we produce energy. But decision makers are being seduced by ‘fixes’ promoted by the fossil fuel industry in a blatant attempt to keep us locked into their failing model The most prominent one is something called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which aims to get rid of carbon at the source, or to even remove it from the atmosphere.

If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. But there’s no mystery why carbon capture is so popular with the dirty energy giants: They can keep doing business as usual, while pretending to do something meaningful in the fight against climate change…

There is a lot of green rhetoric about CCS plants, but they are in fact really bad for the climate, because they have to burn more fuel to power the equipment to capture carbon in the first place. Food & Water Watch found that after accounting for extensive methane emissions from fuel production, CCS can only reduce a fraction of the emissions from electricity generation. And the increased fuel use would worsen the deeply unjust air pollution and burdens that fall mostly on vulnerable communities…

There is no future for the toxic fossil fuel industry, with or without CCS. Carbon emissions are the industry’s downfall, and there is no magic cure for that. Instead of bailouts or gimmicky technology that doesn’t deliver, we must have public control of the oil and gas industries. That’s the ticket to ensure a stable pathway and just transition away from fossil fuels and towards real clean energy.”

Apr. 10, 2020

Con

Mark Z. Jacobson, PhD, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, as quoted in an Oct. 25, 2019 article by Taylor Kubota, “Study Casts Doubt on Carbon Capture,” available at phys.org, stated:

“All sorts of scenarios have been developed under the assumption that carbon capture actually reduces substantial amounts of carbon. However, this research finds that it reduces only a small fraction of carbon emissions, and it usually increases air pollution.

Even if you have 100 percent capture from the capture equipment, it is still worse, from a social cost perspective, than replacing a coal or gas plant with a wind farm because carbon capture never reduces air pollution and always has a capture equipment cost. Wind replacing fossil fuels always reduces air pollution and never has a capture equipment cost…

Not only does carbon capture hardly work at existing plants, but there’s no way it can actually improve to be better than replacing coal or gas with wind or solar directly. The latter will always be better, no matter what, in terms of the social cost. You can’t just ignore health costs or climate costs…

There is a lot of reliance on carbon capture in theoretical modeling, and by focusing on that as even a possibility, that diverts resources away from real solutions. It gives people hope that you can keep fossil fuel power plants alive. It delays action. In fact, carbon capture and direct air capture are always opportunity costs.”

Oct. 25, 2019

Con

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

Con

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

Con

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…

[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

Con

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):

“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