Why CCS won’t solve the climate change problem
The French magazine Science et Vie published this month a most interesting article on why Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) won’t be able to deliver all its promises of mitigating climate change.
Indeed to many international scientific experts putting carbon to the ground is too risky, too expansive, too little and… too late ! This may seem quite lapidary but as we will see it’s the truth.
This is quite surprising as it contrasts importantly to the important investments in this area. Indeed, with so much money one could think it would be an idea solution.
Mankind is emitting 1,022 tonnes of carbon dioxide each second, an approximate for the 32 billion tonnes per year (Source: Global Carbon Project). One of the solutions thought by industrials is to bury the problem. Out of sight, out of mind ?
Even if the risk is quite small, any leak of carbon dioxide from underground could kill thousands of people as it occurred in the Lake Nyos in 1986 in Cameroon.
Since scientists can’t be 100% sure of the long term safety, one can seriously wonder what would happen if the stocked CO2 would surface in the future…
To the US Department of Energy the construction budget of such plants would increase by 36 to 112 percent compared to traditional ones.
Similarly, the IEA estimated that the cost of construction would increase by 57 percent and that the price of kWh would almost double.
Furthermore, the transportation would be a major problem as storing places are generally far from the coal-fired plants and energy consumer and would thus require the construction of hundreds of kilometers of pipeline…
Current experiments are small in size as test plants are 16 times smaller than commercial coal fired plants. As an example, we can mention the Alstom Wattenfall plant, which is only 30MW…
Another example is Futuregen in the United States. To date the project has been stopped as the budget had doubled compared to the plans.
Too late !
To Global Chance, CCS would bring a marginal solution by 2030 as it would be able to avoid as few as three percent of the emissions induced in a business as usual scenario. Similar findings have been evoked by a French institution, the BRGM.
Technological maturity won’t occur before twenty years or so. Meanwhile, climate change has to be solved as soon as possible.
If CCS won’t indeed solve any of our energy and climate problems, it is a solution among others.
Meanwhile, energy efficiency could be the solution to our problems. Indeed, it’s doesn represent any risk, is the cheapest solution, the potential is absolutely gigantic and it’s perfect timing to launch such programs.
Nonetheless, American and European governemnts are investing as much as four times more in CCS than in energy conservation. It is high time this changes !