Busting the myths and misconceptions about CCS: 12 Key Facts

17th July 2017

Topic(s): Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS)

CCS is not a climate mitigation technology:

Wrong: CCS is a climate change technology. It is probably the most versatile and vital climate mitigation technology that exists. Irrefutable evidence by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), plus many other international specialist bodies, concludes that international climate change targets cannot be achieved without CCS.

Note: IEA findings maintain that to reach Paris climate targets of 2 degrees by 2060, 14% of cumulative emission reductions must come from CCS.

CCS is unsafe and untested:

Wrong: CCS has been working safely and effectively for 45 years (since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972). Monitoring undertaken over almost half a century demonstrates that CO2 can be safely stored deep below ground. Oil, gas and naturally-occurring CO2 reservoirs have proven that fluids can be safely sealed underground for millions of years. CCS projects target the same geologies. CCS technology is verifiably well-tested. Seventeen (17) large-scale facilities are operating successfully around the world (with four more coming on-stream shortly). These 17 facilities are currently capable of capturing more than 30 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. 

CCS causes earthquakes: 

Wrong: There is no evidence to indicate that CCS causes earthquakes. CO2 injection does have the potential to cause micro-seismic activity in the same way as other customary engineering activity, including mining, dam construction, and oil or gas development. This micro-seismic activity is monitored and is of such a low magnitude, it cannot be felt on the surface of the earth. The meticulous characterisation of CO2 storage sites to identify and understand below-ground stress and pressure conditions minimises the risks of seismicity. It is also worth noting that the injection and geological storage of CO2 in conventional oil and gas fields or deep saline formations, does not require hydraulic fracturing.

CCS is expensive:

Wrong: On a like-for-like total system cost basis, CCS is cheaper than intermittent renewables and costs continue to decrease as more facilities commercialise. Since the Boundary Dam CCS facility in Canada began operations (in 2014), savings of more than 30 per cent have been identified for construction of a like (or follow-up) facility. This demonstrates the declining costs of deployment. As a simple law of economics, costs will continue to fall as more facilities come onstream. What is expensive is not doing anything at all.

CCS is not commercial:

Wrong: The 17 large-scale facilities operating around the world attest to the commercial success of CCS. Similarly, the four plants poised to come onstream and the raft of other facilities in development (seven in China alone) further demonstrate its commercial viability and versatility.

CCS is a “front” to keep the fossil fuel industry alive – particularly coal

Wrong: CCS is first and foremost a climate change mitigation technology with wide application. It is the only clean technology able to address emissions across major industrial sectors (including steel, chemicals, fertiliser and plastics). Furthermore, CCS is the only technology able to curtail emissions from the more than 500 new coal plants currently being built around the world today (and additional 1000 in planning). CCS’ ability to retrofit aged coal plants keeps jobs and economies alive as the world transitions to a low carbon future.  Even critical and supercritical coal technologies like HELE technology need CCS to mitigate CO2 emissions. There is no such thing as clean coal without CCS.

CCS competes with and reduces the deployment of renewables:

Wrong: CCS complements renewables by reducing emissions in industries which renewables cannot penetrate – notably, steel, chemicals, fertilisers, and plastics. International climate change bodies (IPCC, IEA) confirm that CCS is the only mitigation technology able to decarbonise large industrial sectors. CCS and renewables are partner technologies working towards the same decarbonised objective.

There is not enough underground capacity to store CO2:

Wrong: The geology that is suitable for CO2 storage is abundant globally and there is more than sufficient storage resources available to support widespread CCS deployment. Detailed surveys have been undertaken in many countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Norway and the UK, where potential storage sites are well defined and well documented. Many other countries are progressing their studies.

If CCS worked, it would have been more widely embraced long ago:

Wrong: CCS has been widely adopted and its escalating deployment supports that fact. What CCS still lacks is greater awareness and increased incentivisation through policy parity with other low-carbon emission technologies (the same sort of market instruments which renewables enjoy).

CCS is not needed because fossil fuels are in decline:

Wrong: The amount of fossil fuels we burn continues to rise. Last year, fossil fuels reached a record 83.6 billion barrel of oil equivalent (Bboe) compared to 73.3 Bboe 10 years ago. There are no signs of abatement. In 25 of the last 26 years, we burned more fossil fuels than the year before. The only year recording a decrease in the 25 years was 2009 (caused by the global recession). CO2 emissions have increased every year since 1960 and in the last two years, these hit all-time records. The renewables share of gross electricity generation is currently less than five per cent, rising to 17 per cent by 2040. Fossil fuels share of electricity generation will equate to 50 per cent by 2040. This confirms the urgency at which CCS must be applied to power and wider industry.

The Kemper Power Plant is an example that CCS is expensive and does not work:

Wrong: Kemper’s challenges are not related to the plant’s CCS capability. Kemper’s owner chose to fuel the plant with natural gas instead of coal making the need for a gasifier redundant. Since carbon capture was linked to the gasifier, CCS is now not applicable. The Petra Nova CCS Plant in Texas and Boundary Dam in Canada are testament to the capability of CCS and its profitability in the power sector.  

The Global CCS Institute is a Government-funded mouthpiece for big industry:

Wrong. The Global CCS Institute is an independent, member-owned climate change organisation which advocates for wider CCS deployment on behalf of (55) members, including governments, large and small companies, researchers, academics and NGOs. As the world authority on carbon capture and storage, the Institute is an accredited member of reputable climate change organisations including the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), while it enjoys very close and supportive relationships with the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Emissions Trading  Association (IETA), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF), to name a few. 

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