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Status of CCS
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has an essential role to play in reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As part of a portfolio of low–carbon technologies, CCS is needed to stabilise atmospheric GHG concentrations at levels consistent with limiting projected temperature rises to 2°C by 2050.
The specific challenge for the CCS industry is to demonstrate the entire chain at commercial scale – incorporating carbon dioxide (CO2) capture, compression, transportation, and then injection into suitable storage sites or a use that results in permanent emissions abatement.
Progress is being made
CCS is happening now and continuing to grow at a strong pace, with 12 large–scale integrated projects in operation preventing some 25 million tonnes of CO2 from reaching the Earth’s atmosphere each year. By 2016, a further eight CCS projects currently under construction will commence operation, increasing the amount of sequestered CO2 to some 38 million tonnes per year. This is more than the annual emissions of New Zealand, and equivalent to taking eight million cars off the road in the United States. Importantly, two projects under construction are in the power sector – Boundary Dam in Canada and Kemper County in the United States are both scheduled to commence operation in 2014.
Numerous projects are undertaking CCS in response to, or in anticipation of, longer term climate policies or potential carbon offset markets. While this is promising, developing a business case without a revenue stream, such as enhanced oil recovery, remains a challenge.
Characterising storage sites requires a long lead time, often 5–10 years or more. Projects that have not yet commenced active storage assessments are likely to struggle to operate before 2020.
Project proponents are continuously reviewing their public engagement approach to identify and mitigate potential challenges. In addition, substantial, timely and stable policy support, including a carbon price signal, will help demonstrate and deploy CCS while driving innovation.
The development of CCS laws and regulations has continued at a reasonable pace, with several jurisdictions completing framework legislation and commencing implementation of secondary regulations and guidance.
Urgent action going forward
Ultimately, the international community needs to accept that the longer CCS is delayed, the more expensive it becomes. CCS has an integral role to play in limiting emissions in the coming decades if climate change is to be tackled successfully. Action is needed now.