Carbon capture quick fixes ‘won’t work’
A study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis finds most carbon capture and storage projects are likely to fail.
Carbon capture technology is not a climate solution for tackling “catastrophic rising emissions” in its current framework, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
The IEEFA report has found most carbon capture and storage/carbon capture utilisation and storage projects (CCS/CCUS) are likely to fail.
In a study of 13 flagship CCUS projects, 10 “have failed or are underperforming mostly by large margins”, comprising 55% of the total nominal capture capacity operating worldwide.
It claimed the sample of 13 case studies was comprehensive enough to learn about the whole CCUS sector, capturing more than two-thirds of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide captured in history.
Of these 13 flagship projects, seven underperformed, one was questionable, and just two (both in Norway's gas processing sector) could be called a success due to the country’s “unique regulatory environment for the oil and gas industry”.
Carbon capture technology has been used by gas companies to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas, with more than 70% of projects used for enhanced oil recovery, resulting in more emissions, the report noted.
Bruce Robertson, an energy finance analyst at IEEFA, said: “Many international bodies and national governments are relying on carbon capture in the fossil fuel sector to get to net zero. This is unfortunate because, at this stage of the game, it simply won’t work.
“The quick fix isn’t there without massive government investment and regulatory frameworks being established, and even then, fossil fuels will still be releasing more emissions than are being captured.”
According to International Energy Agency estimates, annual carbon capture capacity needs to increase to 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030 to align with net zero by 2050 targets.
Robertson noted that while carbon capture might have a role to play in hard-to-abate sectors – such as cement, fertilisers and steel – “overall results indicate a financial, technical and emission-reduction framework that continues to overstate and underperform”.
According to the analyst, governments need to look at interim considerations for CCS projects if no alternatives to emissions reductions can be found.
Such considerations involve identifying safe storage locations and a long-term monitoring plan and compensation in case of failure.
Furthermore, CCS projects should not be promoted for enhanced oil recovery, nor should they be used to greenlight or extend the life of any fossil fuel as a climate solution.
Finally, to avoid project liability moving to taxpayers, large oil and gas companies that benefit from subsidies, grants or tax credits for capturing carbon must be held liable for any failure or leakage and monitoring costs.
The analyst added: “Governments globally are looking for quick solutions to the current energy and ongoing climate crisis, but unwittingly latching onto CCS as a fix is problematic.”