The world will still be highly reliant on energy from fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, despite large strides in the use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Carbon dioxide trajectories are not compatible with climate targets, even if current policy commitments and pledges by governments to tackle climate change are implemented (see International Energy Agency).
Alongside other low-carbon energy sources, carbon capture and storage (CCS) has a critical role to play as a climate mitigation technology. CCS is needed to successfully transition to a low-carbon economy and achieve the Paris ‘below 2 degree’ international climate change target.
Most tellingly, in its 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), found that only a minority of global climate modelling scenarios could meet emission reduction targets in the absence of CCS. Without CCS, the cost of mitigation would more than double - rising on average by almost 140 per cent.
CCS is a proven, well-tested and reliable technology that has been in successful operational use for more than 40 years. There are presently 21 large-scale CCS facilities in operation or under construction globally; these facilities can remove 37 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of CO2 that otherwise could have entered the atmosphere. This is the equivalent to taking almost eight million passenger vehicles off our roads.
The facilities span a wide range of CO2 capture technologies and traverse a variety of geological formations and terrains. Industries deploying large-scale CCS facilities include natural gas processing, power, fertiliser, steel-making, hydrogen-production (refining applications), plastics and chemicals. The diversity of industries represented reflects the versatility of CCS technology.
There has been considerable progress in CCS development this decade, and especially in 2017. Over the last year or so, significant developments have occurred in the United States, China, Japan, the Middle East and Europe.
It is very encouraging to see these latest developments. However, there is a pressing need to accelerate the deployment of CCS to achieve the Paris Agreement objectives, a point stressed by many climate and energy experts and leading global authorities, including the International Energy Agency. This acceleration can only be secured through policy parity of CCS with other low-carbon technologies.