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Ouch! Study pegs carbon capture’s staggering cost

euroCarbon capture and storage (CCS) are possible, but the cost of doing so — both early on and even as the technology matures — is likely to be staggering, according to a study from Harvard University’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs.

The researchers who prepared the study — “Realistic costs of carbon capture” — calculate that a First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) CCS plant would operate at a cost of about $150 (almost £91) per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions avoided. According to Climate Progress, that type of expense could cause the cost of any new coal-fired power plant to be double that of one today.

Even later-generation plants (Nth-of-a-Kind, or NOAK) would carry a cost of $35 to $70 (£21 to £42) per tonne of avoided emissions, the Harvard researchers concluded. However, the authors acknowledge those figures are based on 2008’s “peak-of-the-market” energy prices, so could vary depending on the future cost of electricity.

“The range of estimated costs for NOAK plants is within the range of plausible future carbon prices, implying that mature technology would be competitive with conventional fossil fuel plants at prevailing carbon prices,” they write.

Climate Progress’ Joe Romm takes a more jaundiced view, though.

“We’re talking nuclear power prices,” he writes. “The bottom line is that these plants are gonna cost a staggering amount of money if anyone ever actually started building them. And without a couple of miracles occurring, they will still cost a lot in, say, 2025.”

Romm’s conclusion: “Harvard’s analysis is a regular FOAK Festival!”

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