Some carbon capture and storage numbers

Empty Rideau Canal locks

For the period between now and 2030, the International Energy Agency predicts that energy demand will grow 1.7% annually. The also predict that 85% of the new demand will be met using fossil fuel generation: including a doubling of coal power output from 1,000 gigawatts to 2,200 gigawatts. Given the retirement of old plants, this is a net growth of 1,400 gigawatts of coal capacity. 1,200 of those gigawatts are likely to be conventional coal technologies, while the remaining 200 are expected to be Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants.

Since the Industrial Revolution got started in 1750, humanity has released about 150 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has increased the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere from 280 parts per million to 380. Most scientists and economists agree that avoiding really dangerous climatic effects requires that emissions be stabilized between 450 and 550ppm. Last year, emissions were about 27.2 gigatonnes.

From the period when they are built until the time when they are slated for retirement, these new coal plants will emit 140 gigatonnes of carbon. One mechanism that has been emphasized for dealing with this is carbon capture and storage (CCS): whereby the carbon dioxide contained in the fossil fuels is re-buried once the energy in the fuels has been used.

According to Lynn Orr, director of the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford, using a quantity of infrastructure equal to that presently used to extract oil, we could sequester about 14% of humanity’s fossil fuel related emissions. That is about half the combined output from large factories and power stations – the kind of facilities where CCS is most likely to be used. According to an article in Nature, $80 billion dollars of investment per year would be sufficient to capture “several million tonnes of carbon per year.” Burying gigatonnes will presumably cost several orders of magnitude more.

If any meaningful CCS is to occur, those 1,400 gigawatts of new power stations must be built with at least the capability to be easily upgraded to use the technology. This is easier to do with IGCC plants than with conventional coal, though only four plants of the former sort have ever been built. Once power plants have the capability to employ CCS, it will be a matter of internalizing the social costs of carbon to the extent that it becomes more commercially appealing to sequester that to emit.

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.

6 thoughts on “Some carbon capture and storage numbers”

  1. Most ready for ‘green sacrifices’

    Most people say they are ready to make personal sacrifices to address climate change, according to a BBC poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

    Four out of five people say they are prepared to change their lifestyle, even in the US and China, the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

  2. The Pembina Institute’s Perspective on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS)

    Pembina’s perspective in short:

    The Pembina Institute considers CCS to be one available option among others for achieving the
    needed deep reductions in Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But we believe that
    development and deployment of CCS in Canada should be conditional on
    • a massive scale-up of energy efficiency and low-impact renewable energy,
    • the regional context of application of CCS, notably the availability of more sustainable
    • the geological and regulatory context of carbon dioxide (CO2) disposal, and
    • a fair distribution of investment between taxpayers and polluters.
    When and where should we turn to CCS?
    • CCS is an “end-of-pipe” waste disposal option for GHG pollution created by the combustion
    of fossil fuels. Our preference is for “end-THE-pipe” solutions where we can shift from
    fossil fuel combustion processes to low-impact renewable energy options. Accordingly, we
    believe that:
    § Government policy should ensure CCS is applied only in conjunction with a massive
    scale-up of energy efficiency and low-impact renewable energy.
    § Approval of new electricity generation facilities using CCS should be conditional on
    showing that future electricity demand and supply cannot instead be balanced by
    maximizing energy efficiency and low-impact renewable energy.
    § Approval of CCS in conjunction with other new industrial facilities (e.g., in the oil sands)
    should be conditional on showing that they are in the public interest.
    § Approval of CCS retrofitted to existing facilities should be conditional

    Geologically, where should CO2 be disposed of?
    • We believe that Canada’s strategy for CCS should be focused on permanent “disposal,” not
    temporary “storage” of GHG pollution. Accordingly, based on our review of the current
    scientific literature and consultation with leading experts, our current perspective is that:
    § The most reliable and secure location for CO2 disposal is deep saline aquifers.
    § The use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is not a disposal solution but a use that
    may or may not result in a reduction in global GHG emissions. Given the uncertainty of
    the net environmental benefit of using CO2 for EOR, EOR should not be a priority for
    Canada’s strategy for CCS.
    § In most parts of Canada, including Ontario, insufficient geological information is
    currently available to determine whether CO2 disposal will be acceptable.
    • We believe that implementation of a strong regulatory framework to ensure permanance,
    public safety, adequate monitoring and clear attribution of liabilities is essential before any
    CCS operations are approved.
    Current conclusion on location
    • For now, based on the above considerations of regional and geological contexts, we consider
    Alberta to be the only jurisdiction in Canada where development and implementation of CCS
    should be pursued, subject to the conditions specified above.

    Where should the burden of cost lie?
    • We believe that emissions reduction policy should be based on both the polluter-pays and
    ability-to-pay principles. As a result, large industrial facilities should be required to
    transition, as quickly as possible, towards shouldering the full cost of eliminating GHG
    emissions (including adequate monitoring of their elimination) as a cost of doing business.1
    • We believe that this objective should be achieved through a sufficiently strong system of
    GHG regulations and emissions trading for large industry, or an equally effective alternative
    emissions pricing policy. Unfortunately, the currently proposed federal regulatory framework
    does not meet this standard. In particular, it would not put a high enough price on emissions
    to ensure that industry pays for CCS.
    • In the absence of a sufficiently strong emissions pricing policy, and in light of the scale of
    investment required for CCS and the urgency of deep reductions in Canada’s GHG
    emissions, we will accept provincial and federal governments investing taxpayer dollars in
    CCS as long as taxpayers are assured a reasonable financial return on their investment (e.g.,
    government could retain equity in CCS infrastructure).
    • We cannot accept and will actively oppose any explicit or concealed subsidy or hand-out to
    industry to deploy CCS.

  3. The cost of a federal project aimed at demonstrating the viability of cleanly burning coal and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions has nearly doubled to $1.8 billion, the Energy Department said in a report released Friday.

    Publication of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for FutureGen is scheduled to be announced in the Federal Register on Nov. 16, starting a 30-day public comment period after which the department is expected to give the go-ahead for each of the four sites examined — Mattoon and Tuscola in Illinois, and Jewett and Odessa in Texas.

    The FutureGen Alliance, an association of coal companies and electric utilities that have joined DOE to design and build the 275-megawatt power plant, will then make the final site selection, with an announcement expected in December.

    The finalized EIS updates the project’s price tag. In March 2004, DOE told Congress it would cost $950 million in 2004 dollars — a cost to be shared between the department and the FutureGen Alliance, with government paying 74 percent and industry paying 26 percent. The final EIS updates the total bill to $1.757 billion in as-spent dollars, with additional adjustments expected as work unfolds.

    When operational, the plant is projected to generate $300 million from electricity sales over an unspecified time period, which DOE says will yield a net cost of $1.456 billion.

  4. Fossil-fuel energy companies are well-served by having CCS technology remain on the drawing board, devoid of any “industrial-scale” field deployments. It lets them point to technology that will eventually make them clean — forestalling complaints that coal should be done away with completely — while allowing the companies to claim they can’t build something that hasn’t already been built.

  5. Europe to capture carbon

    New power stations could be forced to store greenhouse-gas

    “Next week, the commission will propose a directive on geological storage of CO2 that would require all new fossil-fuel combustion plants to have “suitable space on the installation site for the equipment necessary to capture and compress CO2”. Builders of new plants would need to assess the availability of “suitable storage sites and the technical feasibility of CCS retrofit” before being granted construction licences. If the European Parliament and Council approve the proposal, it could become law in the European Union’s 27 member states as early as 2009…

    The proposed directive is the first attempt anywhere in the world to provide a comprehensive legal framework for industrial CCS activities, from storage-site selection, to environmental monitoring, to liability issues. And it ensures that CO2 captured and stored will be credited as not emitted under the European Union’s mandatory emissions-trading scheme.

    Meanwhile, China and the United States also plan to build large-scale demonstration plants in the next 10 years. An Illinois-based site for FutureGen, a $1.5-billion public–private partnership to build a coal-fuelled near-zero-emissions power plant, was announced in December. This January, America began testing the safety, permanence and economic feasibility of storing large volumes of CO2 in geological structures at 22 test sites run by 7 regional partnerships, each comprising universities, state agencies and private companies.”

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