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Carbon capture effort: Not good enough yet

688347_clouds_of_smokeWhile there’s no shortage of projects around the world aimed at finding ways to suck up carbon dioxide and store it safely away, they’re currently not making progress fast enough — or at a large enough scale — to make a dent in climate change.

Even if such projects could be fast-tracked successfully, though, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is just one of the strategies needed to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and help prevent catastrophic warming of more than 2 degrees C. To cut emissions in half by 2050 will also require more nuclear power, more renewable energy development and a variety of efficiency measures, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

At best, the IEA estimates, CCS could meet about 19 per cent of our emissions reduction goals.

The world’s leading economies have set a goal of deploying 20 commercial-scale CCS plants by 2020 to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources. However, a new report from the Global CCS Institute warns, the planet urgently needs more CCS projects to get started more quickly.

“We know that many of the CCS technologies are available today to be applied across a range of industries to help reduce emissions,” said Nick Otter, CEO of the Global CCS Insitute. “This report demonstrates the need to not only deploy more projects, more quickly, but to deploy more types of projects, and in more places, so that we can learn how to design the best possible facilities, bring down costs and create a valid business case for CCS.”

According to the institute, which has compiled “the most comprehensive database of CCS projects ever created,” there are now 213 active or planned CCS projects under way around the globe, with 101 of those being commercial-scale plants. Seven are already operating, and another 55 are at various stages of progress, which means they’re all potential candidates for the 2020 goal of 20 working plants.

Europe is leading the way, accounting for 37 per cent of the fully integrated, commercial-scale projects in development. It’s followed by the US (24 per cent), Australia (11 per cent) and Canada (10 per cent), with minimal development in Asia, South America and Africa.

Despite the promising figures, “widespread take-up of CCS is faced with the stark risk of high project failure rates typical with the adoption of new technologies,” according to the report. It concludes that reducing that risk will take targeted project support and appropriate incentives for development.

The report says government could take the lead by actively working with the projects already under way, developing strategies and incentives for CCS technology and “establishing a regulatory framework that assigns a value to carbon, resolves long-term storage liabilities and underwrites critical infrastructure.”

“The challenge is great but governments have a unique capacity to take the leadership required to secure the energy that is needed in a carbon-constrained world,” Otter said.  said Nick Otter.

1 Comment

  • Kirsten@Nexyoo
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    This is a good reminder that we really need to work on increasing renewable energy– CCS is just a small piece of the puzzle.

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