Response to Quora/Forbes Commentary by Michael Barnard

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

By Global CCS Institute Advocacy and Communications Lead, Antonios Papaspiropoulos

As the world authority on the clean technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), the Global CCCS Institute cannot let Michael Barnard’s commentary in Quora/Forbes (The Long Term Effects of Carbon Capture Technology, May 17, 2017) go unchallenged.

To say Mr Barnard’s article contains a swathe of inaccuracies, is an understatement. We are frankly flabbergasted that this commentary can be published without a rudimentary fact-check.

Had this occurred, the following mistruths would have been revealed:

  • CCS is ineffective:
  • Incorrect: CCS has been working effectively for 45 years and 17 large-scale facilities are operating successfully around the world (with five more coming on-stream shortly).  It is safe, reliable and well-tested with over 23 million tonnes being captured and stored annually, rising shortly to 40 mtpa.
  • CCS is expensive:
  • Wrong: On a like-for-like basis, CCS is cheaper than intermittent renewables and costs continue to reduce as more facilities commercialise. Additionally, and as the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reiterate, the cost of “not” having CCS is far greater - to people and the planet - than having it.
  • CCS reduces the deployment of Renewables:
  • How? CCS applied to fossil fuel generation eliminates CO2 just as solar, wind, and other renewables do. CCS is the only solution for CO2 emissions from many industrial processes including steel and fertiliser manufacture. CCS is a complement to renewables, not a competitor. It is part of a wide arsenal of technologies that need to be deployed if climate change targets are to be met. Everything is needed.
  • CCS creates more C02 in the atmosphere: 
  • False.  CO2 storage sites are abundant, well defined and documented, and CO2 is easily transported to these underground repositories by pipeline or road. Furthermore, C02 which is injected into oil wells as part of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) does not “leak back up”. It is stored where the oil is displaced, and in most instances replaces the use of naturally occurring CO2 stores that have been tapped for EOR for up to 50 years.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • CCS makes a tiny amount of new minerals:
  • And? We are not sure why this is presented as a negative aspersion? Mineralisation can occur and mineralisation technologies can ultimately provide a complementary form of CCS to geological storage. 
  • CCS increases global warming by allowing fossil fuels to continue burning:
  • Incorrect. If CCS is removing CO2 from fossil fuel industries, how can it? What CCS does do, is allow existing infrastructure to be retrofitted with new clean technologies, allowing a timely transition to the clean green future we all ultimately want. It cannot be achieved overnight and CCS is the only technology that can deal with many industrial emissions where renewables have no applicability.
  • CCS makes some people rich:
  • Incongruous: It is unclear who Mr Barnard is referring to here but we presume he means the owners of fossil fuel companies. For that group, CCS is a safe, sensible and responsible technology which preserves jobs, delivers surety of supply (especially electricity generation) and ultimately tackles climate change.

We thank Mr Barnard for the opportunity to address these myths, and we hope that we will be accorded a fair right of reply.

CCS and its pivotal role in addressing climate change deserves it.