Carbon capture must be fast-tracked as global coal growth deemed ‘unsustainable’

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says global governments must 'radically accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technology' as a new report reveals demand for coal will break the nine-billion-tonne level by 2019.

The organisation’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report, released today (15 December), concludes that the fate of the global coal market will be determined by China, which will continue to account for three-fifths of demand growth during the five-year outlook period. (Scroll down for factsheet).

“We have heard many pledges and policies aimed at mitigating climate change, but over the next five years they will mostly fail to arrest the growth in coal demand,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. “Although the contribution that coal makes to energy security and access to energy is undeniable, I must emphasise once again that coal use in its current form is simply unsustainable.

“For this to change, we need to radically accelerate deployment of carbon capture and sequestration.”

Global coal demand growth has been slowing in recent years, and the report sees that trend continuing. Coal demand will grow at an average rate of 2.1% per year through 2019, the report says. This compares to the 2013 report’s forecast of 2.3% for the five years through 2018 and the actual growth rate of 3.3% per year between 2010 and 2013.

The decline of coal use in Europe and the United States will, however, be offset by the likes of China, India, ASEAN countries and other countries in Asia which are seen as the main ‘engines of growth’ in global coal consumption.

Carbon capture call

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a technology designed to silo CO2 released during industrial processes and store it underground. Fossil fuel power stations are most closely linked to the application of CCS but it could be used in any industry with high carbon emissions.

Globally, there are 13 large-scale CCS projects in operation, with a further nine under construction. According to the Global CCS Institute, the total CO2 capture capacity of these 22 projects is around 40 million tonnes a year.

Earlier this year, a report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) explained that CCS has become ‘vital’ to limiting climate change and that the technology must be fast-tracked for use in UK power stations.

And just last month, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) ramped up its support for CCS with the announcement of new funding to support new CCS projects, technologies and solutions across the country.

Luke Nicholls

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