The GAO on carbon capture and storage

The American Government Accountability Office has released a report (PDF) on carbon capture and storage (CCS). Some key points:

  • To make a significant contribution to fighting climate change, the International Energy Agency estimates that 6,000 CCS facilities would be required, each storing one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
  • Integrating CCS into existing coal plants is very expensive and difficult.
  • It is easier with integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants, but they are very expensive before you even take CCS into account.
  • Commercial scale IGCC plants (not necessarily with CCS) can’t be expected before 2020 – 5 years after global CO2 emissions need to peak.
  • Coal plants with CCS will produce 35% – 77% less electricity than those without.
  • There are questions about the long-term viability of storing carbon underground.
  • Leaks could contaminate water and suffocate people.
  • CCS will only be deployed if companies are forced to use it.

In short, people who are counting on CCS to make a big contribution to fighting climate change have a lot to prove, and cannot be reasonably permitted to assume the near-term emergence of the technology as a viable, low-cost option. Until CCS is shown to be safe and feasible on a commercial scale, we simply cannot allow new coal power plants in countries that are serious about dealing with climate change.

I found out about it via Gristmill.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

4 thoughts on “The GAO on carbon capture and storage”

  1. More on carbon capture and storage:

    Spremberg clean coal plant
    Monday, September 22nd, 2008

    CCS skepticism
    Friday, June 27th, 2008

    Selling ‘clean coal’
    Monday, June 2nd, 2008

    Greenpeace on carbon capture and storage
    Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

    Some carbon capture similes
    Saturday, April 12th, 2008

    Carbon capture in Saskatchewan
    Saturday, March 29th, 2008

    Monbiot on British carbon capture plans
    Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

    Crystals for improved CO2 separation
    Monday, February 18th, 2008

    Taskforce calls for $2 billion for CCS
    Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

    FutureGen and the cost of CCS
    Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

  2. Good news to see all this acknowledged by an office the US government (though not, significantly, from within the executive who have pursued an approach of muzzling scientists and suppressing evidence). Let’s hope that people take note.

  3. Arguably, the people who most need to take note of this are the Government of Alberta.

    Their 2008 climate change strategy projects that they will have stored 139 megatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050. It is not clear that this is possible at all, much less possible at an acceptable price.

  4. “Leaks could contaminate water and suffocate people.”

    ‘Clean coal’ advocates certainly don’t mention this possibility.

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