The role for CCS explained in latest IPCC report

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and bio-CCS technologies have been recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the leading international scientific body for the assessment of climate change - as essential in the mix of climate mitigation technologies necessary to avoid the effects of climate change. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, released a Summary Report for policymakers on Sunday 13 April, which finds that a wide array of technologies - including CCS - along with behaviour changes, would make it possible to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However the Working Group III contributors warned that, “Only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.”

CCS role in fossil fuel extraction
The report makes several key statements advocating for the role of CCS technology to reduce the lifecycle of GHG emissions from fossil fuel power plants, saying:

Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technologies could reduce the lifecycle GHG emissions of fossil fuel power plants (medium evidence, medium agreement). While all components of integrated CCS systems exist and are in use today by the fossil fuel extraction and refining industry, CCS has not yet been applied at scale to a large, operational commercial fossil fuel power plant. CCS power plants could be seen in the market if this is incentivized by regulation and/or if they become competitive with their unabated counterparts, if the additional investment and operational costs, caused in part by efficiency reductions, are compensated by sufficiently high carbon prices (or direct financial support). For the large‐scale future deployment of CCS, well‐defined regulations concerning short‐ and long‐term responsibilities for storage are needed as well as economic incentives. Barriers to large‐scale deployment of CCS technologies include concerns about the operational safety and long‐term integrity of CO2 storage as well as transport risks. There is, however, a growing body of literature on how to ensure the integrity of CO2 wells, on the potential consequences of a pressure build‐up within a geologic formation caused by CO2 storage (such as induced seismicity), and on the potential human health and environmental impacts from CO2 that migrates out of the primary injection zone (limited evidence, medium agreement).

The report finds that combining bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) offers:

“the prospect of energy supply with large‐scale net negative emissions which plays an important role in many low‐stabilization scenarios, while it entails challenges and risks (limited evidence, medium agreement). These challenges and risks include those associated with the upstream large‐scale provision of the biomass that is used in the CCS facility as well as those associated with the CCS technology itself.”

Brad Page, Global CCS Institute CEO agreed that Bio-CCS technology is an essential part of delivering the deep emissions reductions required to keep global temperatures below the internationally agreed goal of 2°C.

“Around the world, industrial processes for sustainable biomass production and energy conversion including co-firing and gasification are well advanced. Bio-CCS couples these processes with conventional CCS, as exemplified in major projects such as Decatur Illinois. 
“While the technologies are available, their development needs to be accelerated to make negative emissions a reality. For this to happen, it is vital to introduce strong policy action that ensures CCS is not disadvantaged compared to other low-carbon technologies,” said Mr Page.

Report highlights of Bio-CCS 
The policy report outlines the following instances of where bio-CCS played a role in climate change mitigation:

i. In the majority of low‐stabilization scenarios, the share of low‐carbon electricity supply (comprising renewable energy (RE), nuclear and CCS) increases from the current share of approximately 30% to more than 80 % by 2050, and fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100.

ii. Scenarios reaching atmospheric concentration levels of about 450 ppm CO2eq by 2100 (consistent with a likely chance to keep temperature change below 2°C relative to pre‐industrial levels) include substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid‐century through large‐scale changes in energy systems and potentially land use (high confidence). Scenarios reaching these concentrations by 2100 are characterized by lower global GHG emissions in 2050 than in 2010, 40% to 70% lower globally, and emissions levels near zero GtCO2eq or below in 2100. In scenarios reaching 500 ppm CO2eq by 2100, 2050 emissions levels are 25% to 55% lower than in 2010 globally. In scenarios reaching 550 ppm CO2eq, emissions in 2050 are from 5% above 2010 levels to 45% below 2010 levels globally. At the global level, scenarios reaching 450 ppm CO2eq are also characterized by more rapid improvements of energy efficiency, a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero‐ and low‐carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), or bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050.

iii. Mitigation scenarios reaching about 450 ppm CO2eq in 2100 typically involve temporary overshoot of atmospheric concentrations, as do many scenarios reaching about 500 ppm to 550 ppm CO2eq in 2100. Depending on the level of the overshoot, overshoot scenarios typically rely on the availability and widespread deployment of BECCS and afforestation in the second half of the century. The availability and scale of these and other Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies and methods are uncertain and CDR technologies and methods are, to varying degrees, associated with challenges and risks.

iv. Many models could not achieve atmospheric concentration levels of about 450ppm CO2eq by 2100 if additional mitigation is considerably delayed or under limited availability of key technologies, such as bioenergy, CCS, and their combination (BECCS).

Investment flows for mitigation scenarios
The policy report includes a figure showing the change in annual investment flows from the average baseline level over the next two decades (2010 to 2029) for mitigation scenarios that stabilize concentrations within the range of approximately 430–530 ppm CO2eq by 2100. Figure SPM.9, below, shows an important projected role for CCS, with significant annual investment particularly in developing countries, and large falls in investment in fossil fuel plants without CCS even over the next few decades.

About the report
The report is the third of three Working Group reports, which, along with a Synthesis Report due in October 2014, constitute the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change. Working Group III is led by three Co-Chairs: Ottmar Edenhofer from Germany, Ramón Pichs-Madruga from Cuba, and Youba Sokona from Mali.
For the report, about 1200 scenarios from scientific literature have been analyzed. These scenarios were generated by 31 modelling teams around the world to explore the economic, technological and institutional prerequisites and implications of mitigation pathways with different degrees of ambition. The Working Group III Summary for Policymakers, full report and further information are available at and The full report will be posted on these websites on Tuesday 15 April.