Coal Tattoo

More hard truths about CCS and coal

There’s a new paper out in the journal Energy Policy, and the title says it all:  Ten times more difficult: Quantifying the carbon capture and storage challenge.

The paper is available only by subscription, but here’s the abstract:

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is receiving much attention and is being promoted as an important low-carbon technology. This paper communicates key insights and conclusions from a larger study that conducted review work, policy analysis, and interviews with actors in the global CCS community (Varnäs et al., 2012). No judgment is made of the desirability of choosing CCS as a low carbon technology option, but if this technology is indeed pursued, four challenges are found to be 10 times greater than often recognized.

These are:  (i) a tenfold up-scaling in size (MW) from pilot plants to that of commercial demonstration, (ii) a tenfold increase in number of large scale demonstration plants actually being constructed, (iii) a tenfold increase in available annual funding over the coming 40 years and, (iv) a tenfold increase in the price put on carbon dioxide emissions.

It is clear that the current development path will not fulfill expectations of CCS being commercially available at the end of this decade, nor will CCS be widely applied in time for significant contributions to needed CO2 emission reductions. CCS will only be developed if policymakers continue to favor coal based power generation while simultaneously developing stringent climate policy.

In short, according to this summary:

The possibility for CCS to be commercially available by 2020 is greatly exaggerated.  Reducing CO2 emissions with CCS is a political challenge, not a technological one.