Environment groups are disputing the viability of carbon capture storage (CCS) on the grounds that the technology is not proven, unsafe and according to Friends of the Earth “would take 20-30 years to have any effect on carbon emissions.” Green peace have stated “CCS isn’t commercially viable; there are no commercially operating CCS plants in the world.”
Opposing Carbon capture is an ongoing campaign for Greenpeace. In 2008 Emily Rochon, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace stated, “carbon capture and storage is a scam. It is the ultimate coal industry pipe dream,” Rochon, who wrote a report on CCS, further added “international governments and businesses need to reduce their emissions—not search for excuses to keep burning coal.
The report entitled ‘false hope’ advocates that ‘policymakers should prioritise investments in sustainable energy solutions to stop the climate crisis and not succumb to pumping vast amounts of taxpayers money into the elusive promise of carbon capture and storage.”
This is a direct contradiction of claims made by John Hofmeister keynote speaker at beyond Kyoto, who is championing carbon capture as a solution of gaseous waste produced.
How scientifically viable is carbon capture though and could it really solve our emission problems?
Carbon – the basics
Carbon is emitted into the atmosphere (as carbon dioxide, also called CO2) whenever we burn any fuel, anywhere. The largest sources are cars and lorries, and non-nuclear power stations – those that burn coal, oil or gas, otherwise known as fossil fuels.
The UK Energy Research Centre (UERC) is currently promoting carbon capture as a viable method of preventing the carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere, UERC insist that “we can catch the CO2, and store it”, they further add “as we would need to store thousands of millions of tons of CO2, we cannot just build containers, but must use natural storage facilities. Some of the best natural containers are old oil and gas fields, such as those in the North Sea.”
According to a report from the U.S.-based firm Emerging Energy Research, government funding of Carbon Capture storage (CCS) projects could reach US $70 billion over the next two decades. Most of the funding is being deployed throughout Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Is Industry Ready?
In 2005, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on CCS, saying that it may not be commercially ready until 2050. However, due to recent funding commitments and the deployment of over 100 pilot projects world-wide, Emerging Energy Research predicts that CCS could become a cost-effective tool to reduce carbon emissions by as soon as 2016.
British newspaper the Guardian reported that Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, warns that coal plants fitted with carbon capture storage (CCS) equipment in the UK are unlikely to be ready to make big cuts in Britain’s emissions before 2030. He says, “the country’s geology is not suited to the technology, which is expensive and unproven”.
By Portia Nicholson
Read more on BBC: Clean coal technology: How it works