EXCLUSIVE: CCS to remain costly despite potential rise in investment

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) could help cut 20% of global emissions required by 2050 but will need vast investment and the support of regulatory and energy efficiency measures, says Tore Amundsen.

The chairman of CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad told edie that CCS has the potential to play a key role in reducing CO2 emissions but other measures will have to be adopted as well, adding that CCS is “not the most important mitigating action”.

The Government estimates the “first-mover” advantage gained from demonstrating CCS technology could bring the UK about £3-6.5bn of business a year by 2030. The industry could also sustain up to 60,000 jobs in Britain by 2030.

However, because the technology is not yet proven on a large scale and there are no commercial scale integrated CCS power plants, the conservational use of energy is a more important factor in meeting carbon reduction targets, says Amundsen.

“It’s doubtful that investment will be at an important scale before we are able to bring costs significantly down. If you take the state-of-the-art technology in CCS today, it is around the use of chemicals based on amines or ammonia for example and these technologies will be fairly costly.

“There are physical limits to how much you can reduce the energy needed to sustain processes like that. So even after putting quite a lot of R&D into them, they will still be fairly costly technologies,” he added.

According to the UK Government, capturing CO2 reduces the efficiency of power plants by approximately 20-25% making the cost of CCS and its associated infrastructure uncertain.

“Industry requires significant financial support or some other form of carbon reduction incentive to make the technology commercially viable,” states the Government.

Despite this, Amundsen was quick to point out that CCS is being applied today, particularly in the US and Canada. Canada is currently building a large scale capture plant based on amine technology.

“To reach what the International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated there to be in the necessary number of fairly large scale CCS facilities, which is around 3000 by the year 2050, I think we need some technologies that are far more efficient and less costly than the ones that we know today,” he added.

Amundsen also commented on a recent report that claims CCS plants will not deliver the predicted 90% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction.

According to the report, by professor Geoff Hammond from University of Bath and Dr Craig Jones of Sustain, CCS plants will cut emissions of electricity by 70%, 20% less than the previous estimate.

Amundsen said the report took into account the upstream emissions of fuel production, such as fugitive methane emissions from coal mining and gas pipelining, which CCS is not designed to capture.

“What we’ve always said is that from a technical point of view we can capture 90% of all the carbon dioxide emitted from the combustion of coal, oil and gas in power plants and in industry. We’re not including in the estimate emissions relating to the production of coal, oil and gas,” he added.

“There are many more emissions sources other than those from the combustion of coal, oil and gas in power plants and industry. There are emissions from vehicles, oil fields, coal plants etcetera and if you add all those emissions up today they sum up to around 30 billion tons of C02 per year and it is expected this will increase by the year 2050 to more than 60 billion if we do not take any mitigating actions at all”.

Leigh Stringer

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