Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Reaching a Critical Point?

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Carbon dioxide can be transported to the storage site through pipelines. Photo by Rickz

CCS facilities usually transport CO2 through pipelines; this technology is well developed both onshore and offshore, but researchers are still performing studies to improve the efficiency of the systems – they’re investigating methods of preventing corrosion, for instance.

The long term storage of carbon dioxide is a crucial point, as it is very important to arrange a safe and secure site.

Normally CO2 is injected in a deep subsurface site, such as depleted hydrocarbons fields, or saline formations, which has empty space available for placement of the carbon dioxide.

It is also important to ensure that the pressure of the site does not increase excessively after the CO2 injection, to avoid the formation of cracks and/or faults in the area.

CCS Technology: State of the Art Not Encouraging

Talking about the state of the art of CCS technology, Dr. Scott told Decoded Science:

Clearly there is still much room for improvement and further innovation. At present, however, there are no technical barriers to start CCS deployment for both power gas and industrial plants.”

Despite this potential, however, CCS implementation seems to have stalled. According to Dr. Scott:

While there are a lot of good intentions, far too few of them become reality. At present, for instance, there are four large scale CCS projects running; although they abate significant amount of CO2, much more should be done.

There are plans to develop 65 more large scale CCS plants, which sounds very good. The delivery of these plans, however, is worryingly slow. For smaller scale demonstration projects, the situation is similar, as the actual construction started for only 2 of the proposed 41.

Existing power plants could be fitted with CCS equipment. Photo by John M.

Improving the Environment: Why CCS Is Not Going Ahead

Dr. Scott and his coworkers tried to understand the reason(s) for these delays in the implementation of CCS projects. One problem is that there is not adequate legislation allowing CCS to become a viable business; in fact, the policies are often either non-existent or too restrictive. Political will can also be an issue in some cases; for a developing country like China, for instance, heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, no proper action was taken to move in this direction.

Carbon Dioxide Capture: Last Chance?

According to Dr. Scott “we are at a critical point for the future of CCS technology. CCS has enormous potential to mitigate the CO2 emissions, but a prompt and concerted action is needed to develop fully integrated large scale CCS facilities as soon as possible. Our study confirmed that CCS is deliverable, the question is if it will really be delivered before it is too late.

Sources

Scott V. et al., Last chance for carbon capture and storage. (2012). Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate1695. Accessed December 23, 2012.

International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2011Accessed December 23, 2012.

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