Carry coals to Paris: are the stars aligning for CCS technology projects?

The CEO of the Global CCS Institute, Brad Page, writing in the Institute’s The Global Status of CCS Report 2018 asserted that “2018 may well be the year that the stars started again align for CCS…for the first time in quite a long time, we have seen decisive action from a number of governments to include CCS in their armoury.”

The Report identifies the US as the pioneers and market leaders with 10 of the world’s 18 operational CCS projects, China as the one to watch with 30 projects on the drawing board and significant contributions to the momentum now being made by Canada, Japan, Australia, the UAE, Algeria, Norway, the UK and the Netherlands.

The optimism comes with stark warning from Page: “…we need to remember that more than 200,000 MW of new coal-fired generation is in construction around the world...which will add very significantly to the climate change challenge. CCS is the only technology that can truly decarbonise these facilities and remains a vital technology for addressing electricity emissions.”

The International Energy Agency findings are that CCS must contribute 14% of the targeted emissions reductions if the Paris Agreement target of a maximum temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius by 2060 is to be achieved but there are not enough facilities coming onstream. The report projects that 2,500 facilities with an average annual capture capacity of 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 will be needed.

In addition to the classic enhanced oil recovery (EOR) contribution CCS has made and continues to offer, the report focuses on four key areas where CCS is the conduit to a new energy economy: direct air capture (DAC), carbon to value products (C2V), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and hydrogen production.

The report does strike a defensive note in drawing comparisons with the cost advantages won by solar and wind power in recent years. The subsea oil and gas sector has also radically adapted to a new generation of much lower cost production but perhaps the biggest battle yet to come is whether the coal sector can combine with cost effective CCS technology and “deliver the world to Paris”.