Carbon capture and storage – "We still don't know when CCS technologies will be technically proven at full scale"

An oxyfuel CCS power plant operation filters t...

An oxyfuel CCS power plant operation filters the exhaust fumes so as to make clean CO 2 before it can be stored in an underground layer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the UK Energy Research Centre

Carbon capture and storage — new research from UKERC shows tough road ahead to realize potential

Research highlights key challenges for the government’s new CCS strategy

Government plans to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to reduce carbon emissions received a cautious welcome today. A new report concluded that most of the uncertainties facing these technologies can – in principle – be resolved.

Carbon capture and storage: realising the potential? is the culmination of a two-year project funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). The report assesses the technical, economic, financial and social uncertainties facing CCS technologies, and analyses the role they could play in achieving UK energy policy goals. Its publication today follows the announcement earlier this month of a new long-term strategy for CCS by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, including the re-launch of the UK’s £1 billion competition to develop commercial scale CCS projects.

The report’s lead author, Professor Jim Watson, Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex says:

‘We still don’t know when CCS technologies will be technically proven at full scale, and whether their costs will be competitive with other low-carbon options. So it is vital that the Government’s commitment to these technologies leads to several full scale CCS projects as soon as possible. Only through such learning by doing will we know whether CCS is a serious option for the future, and how the technical, economic and legal uncertainties currently facing investors can be overcome’

The report draws lessons from history, and concludes that previous technologies have faced similar challenges to those affecting CCS technologies today. In the past, such uncertainties have been resolved sufficiently for these technologies to succeed. While care is needed when learning from history, the findings offer some optimism that, given the right actions by government and industry, the uncertainties surrounding CCS can also be dealt with.

But even if rapid progress is made with the UK’s re-launched demonstration programme, which aims to have CCS plants operational later this decade, difficult choices will remain for government and other decision makers, say the authors. The report identifies four key areas where such choices need to be made:

  • Deciding whether to keep options open, or close them down. The French government focused on one technological variety early on for its nuclear programme. Doing this for CCS may help speed up development, but there is a risk of picking inferior technology. The authors caution that it is too early for government and industry to close down on a particular variant of CCS technology. They welcome the plans for several substantial demonstration projects which will help to identify which variants of CCS technology can be scaled up successfully.
  • Designing financial support for effective CCS demonstration and deployment. A regulatory approach that makes CCS compulsory for all fossil plants will only work if the technology is more advanced, and the additional costs can be passed onto consumers. CCS technologies are not yet at this stage. In the mean time, the government should ensure that industry maximises efficiency and minimises costs of new CCS plants. History shows that not all demonstrations will perform as expected, and government should ensure that lessons are learned from successes and failures.
  • CCS deployment is a marathon, not a sprint. Developing new energy technologies can take a long time, and the process is often far from smooth. The report shows that costs do not necessarily fall in the way supporters hope – and can rise for several years before they come down, as technologies are scaled up. This requires patience. Government also needs to ensure it has an independent capability to assess costs to inform future decisions about whether to continue with public funding for CCS or to divert resources to other low carbon options.
  • Dealing with storage liabilities. The report shows highlights lessons from UK nuclear waste management policy to show how complex liability arrangements for CO2 storage could be. For CCS, a balance needs to be struck between limiting liabilities for investors and protecting the interests of future taxpayers. Agreements will be needed on where this balance should lie, and what arrangements are needed to fund and insure against potential liabilities.

Professor Watson comments:

‘It will be vital to keep options open in the government’s CCS commercialisation programme. Whilst it is welcome that the government has learned from the mistakes of the past, and now plans to support a number of CCS technologies, there is a long way to go before CCS is a reality at full scale. Complex negotiations with industry lie ahead. As the National Audit Office argued recently, such negotiations require substantial capacity and skills within government to bring such negotiations to a successful conclusion.’

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Copies of the report (strictly embargoed until 00.01 am on Thursday 19 April) are available for download at http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-index.php?page=ES_RP_SystemsCCS. The working papers, relating to the historical case studies referred to in the final report, are already available for download on this page, as is a UKERC Policy Insight Paper on carbon capture and storage, offering a summary of the key issues around the technology.

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R Barker

Aside from enormous costs and reduced efficiencies, do these people have any idea of the unintended consequences of what they are trying to do? They are wringing their hands about fracking gas wells but sequestering CO2……..not a problem.

Dave Wendt

They seem to have skipped the first and most important question ie whether this technology, even in the best case senario, has any real possibility of creating more than an unmeasurably miniscule affect on the future climate of the planet. By any reasonable analysis the answer would seem to be definitely not.

Lew Skannen

I am sure there are a lot of engineers who are looking forward to the challenge of overcoming various technical problems by dreaming up ingenious solutions but I interpret one of the statements above as meaning – “lets try a full scale implementation as one of the feasibility tests for full scale implementation”.
A rather expensive and risky way of doing it.
I am reminded of many times in my programming career where I had worked out a clever and elegant solution to a rather fiddly problem only to have someone else remove the entire problem from existence before I had had my chance to shine. Even though the problem had been eliminated I was usually left with a feeling of mild disappointment.
I suspect it is the same with the Carbon Sequestration Gang.

John F. Hultquist

Sounds a bit like “fracking” to me. But there is the geothermal gradient to think of so forcing CO2 underground, thereby warming it, seems to have a “how do you keep it there” issue. Because there is nothing useful to come of CCS – why bother? Huge expense, no benefits = Boondoggle.

William Martin in NZ

And all this for?

The only way nature has found to store carbon is as plant matter, or (by decay and compression) as a fossil fuel. The only way to sequest Carbon from CO2 to produce any stable and storable product is to create pure carbon – a high-thermal input required.
However, you could use unreliable and ad hoc “renewables” to power CO2->Carbon conversion when such power is available, then burn that carbon as needed to provide power on demand.
Just a thought

jorgekafkazar

An obvious symptom of insanity. The money could be better spent on bigger madhouses.

Mike Wryley

Typical central control methodology, expend lots of resources on an unproductive endeavor to remedy a manufactured crisis. The plant kingdom should be outraged.

Wayne Delbeke

Well actually we have been injecting CO2 into the ground for years – it’s called enhanced oil recovery when you pump it into an oil bearing formation. Or you can put it down with naturally occurring CO2 reservoirs. Or you can create new storage reservoirs for future use. Will it make a difference? Probably not, but it makes some people feel better about how they spend our money and assuage their guilt about wasting it in other places.

AndyG55

These guys are monumentally STUPID !!
Don’t waste the money on a pointless exercise !!
FEED THE PLANTS !!!!!!!!

gofer

Wouldn’t giant dehumidifiers be more efficient? After all, water vapor is the real culprit. Can’t tax water vapor and make it a product of evil capitalists, too bad. /sarc

kiwirob

Good to see a discussion of solutions on this site as well as petulant denial that there is anything to solve.

Anybody who is stupid enough to think that they can efficiently and permanently capture and store the quantities of gas that are produced per day is absolutely crazy. Do not go near such a person with any money or even intent to discuss anything. They are idiots and should be ignored and left to breath their storage product in its pure form.
CCS is another crony capitalism scam designed to transfer wealth from the people to the cronies. They know full well it’s an idiot idea.

William McClenney

This is just more confirmation of the now parallel paths of science and policy. Science was hijacked, compromised by all manner of data manglement, then forwarded on by once respected bodies to influence policy. Shades of Galileo and Copernicus after so few centuries of enlightenment. According to the Precautionary Principle Project, a partnership between four international NGOs, “it involves acting to avoid serious or irreversible potential harm, despite lack of scientific certainty as to the likelihood, magnitude, or causation of that harm.”
Has policy been informed of the reversible harm of the next ice age? We lack scientific certainty as to when the present interglacial, the Holocene, will end.
If the heathen devil gas CO2 is really as viable an antibiotic for an ice age as it would surely have to be then wouldn’t the Precautionary Principle mandate writing a prescription for “acting to avoid serious or irreversible potential harm”? Or does the Precautionary Principle advise us to cleanse the blood of climate civilization “despite lack of scientific certainty as to the likelihood, magnitude, or causation of that harm”?
This may be a quandary that will require not one but two ice ages to resolve as we are presently close to the next eccentricity minimum. That being the case would we be unwise to ponder:
“An examination of the fossil record indicates that the key junctures in hominin evolution reported nowadays at 2.6, 1.8 and 1 Ma coincide with 400 kyr eccentricity maxima, which suggests that periods with enhanced speciation and extinction events coincided with periods of maximum climate variability on high moisture levels.”
state Trauth, et al (2009) in Quaternary Science Reviews. The next eccentricity maxima is 200kyrs away. There is just nothing quite like having such a natural fly land in your climate change soup. We may have to evolve ourselves out of this, somehow, in some future some interglacial……..

William Martin in NZ

Hi kiwirob,plz explain what there is to solve.

Bill Tuttle

kiwirob says:
April 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm
Good to see a discussion of solutions on this site as well as petulant denial that there is anything to solve.

As opposed to petulant insistence that a manmade “solution” be implemented to counter a naturally-occurring process?

Ally E.

You know, I’d actually respect a government that admitted to being duped. Yes, I know they are in on it but they must see their votes slipping away. Rather than clinging to the increasingly unstable AGW claim, wouldn’t it be better for them to swing back into favour with the people?
Any President or Prime Minister that decided to give science back to scientists and the money back to the people, and stop this hugely expensive nonsense, would be treated as a hero well into the future. I should have thought that idea would appeal to them.

Casper

This problem is well-known to me somehow:
Germany rejects carbon dioxide storage plans. Take a look at the picture. That’s funny, the Greens are against the CCS technology 😆

Brian Johnson uk

More taxpayers money well and truly down the drain. What imbeciles!

Eric

I just recently concluded an experiment on the adverse effects of CO2 on human health. The experiment required me to inhale small amounts of CO2 included in the normal air I breath at varying amounts and then to exhale the same CO2 over a period of 46 years. The results have been surprising. CO2 causes no discernible adverse effects for approximately 30 years but then begins to slowly degrade the human body in the following ways: hair loss, weight gain, facial wrinkles, loss of energy, blood serum cholesterol increases, decreased memory function, and creates an overwhelming desire to tell kids to get off of your lawn. CO2 must be stopped! Save the planet! Save yourselves!

Bill Tuttle

Eric says:
April 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm
I just recently concluded an experiment on the adverse effects of CO2 on human health…but then begins to slowly degrade the human body in the following ways: hair loss…

My experiment is still ongoing — no hair loss, but it did turn completely white at age 50, which I interpret as my body’s effort to increase the Earth’s albedo to combat global warming…

martinbrumby

Yet again, presumably intelligent boffins, when employed to spend two years of their life looking into some new hare-brained scheme, fail to ask the obvious “what’s the point?” question and fail to note that CCS is obviously, transparently a wheeze to prevent new coal developments going forward and to make conventional energy more expensive that Ruinables.
And yet again their prescription is for spending more money and doing more research to get them another couple of years closer to retirement.
My favourite bit?
“In the mean time, the government should ensure that industry maximises efficiency and minimises costs of new CCS plants.”
But not, of course, to “ensure that industry maximises efficiency and minimises costs” of power generation!
No, No! What an appaling idea! That would NEVER do!

martinbrumby

“that Ruinables” = than Ruinables.

William Martin in NZ

Hi Eric,wait till your as old as me.I have been breathing this poison for 20 yrs more than you.But I need more time to discern if is the co2 or the low temps we have here in NZ.I have also noticed a change in my sex drive,but I have attributed that to worrying about polar bear numbers as opposed to the job in hand.(pun intended)I do have a bit of a guts,but you don’t drive a 4 inch nail in with a tack hammer.Keep smiling,cheers from NZ

Gary Pate

Wouldn’t the accomplish just as much and waste less money if they just paid people to dig holes & fill them back in?

Allan MacRae

Let’s just change all municipal drinking water to soda water. There! Problem solved! 🙂
OK – this is really stupid, kind of like saying “the science is settled”.
If you have a very large source of CO2, like a hydrogen plant, it produces almost-pure CO2 as a by-product. Just capturing and compressing the CO2 costs about $150 per Tonne according to studies I’ve seen. Transporting the CO2 to a depleted oilfield or other disposal site and pumping it down the hole into a permeable formation would cost considerably more. I’ve also seen lower numbers quoted, totaling as low as $60 per Tonne, but wonder if they are current or credible.
Before the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) CO2-offset market collapsed, you could buy CO2 credits for 5-10 cents per Tonne. Does anyone else see a mismatch here?
There may be a market for some CO2 in enhanced recovery from depleted oilfields. Other than that, it’s just a huge cost that could easily double your electric power bill – unless my brilliant idea of carbonated municipal drinking water really takes off.

Richard111

Carbon dioxide is released when we burn stuff. Now we are going to burn more stuff to ‘purify’ the carbon dioxide before we bury it. However inefficient the first burning was, the second burning will square it!

Ya know, there’s a very cheap and efficient carbon sequestration system already available. It is called the atmosphere. Sure, some of it leaches out into the biosphere and causes increased crop yields, but we can balance that by planting less crops. Well, that would leave things like forests growing faster, but we could easily chop them down faster if we wanted. Put a subsidy on house building using wood and problem solved.

Steve C

If a thing’s not worth doing at all, it’s not worth doing however well. CCS is the perfect example.

DirkH

Andi Cockroft says:
April 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm
“However, you could use unreliable and ad hoc “renewables” to power CO2->Carbon conversion when such power is available, then burn that carbon as needed to provide power on demand. ”
This German company turns wind/solar power into Methane and builds a pilot plant for Audi, to be ready in 2013.
http://www.solar-fuel.net/en/the-challenge
Don’t know about the economics.

Rhoda R

Adding to the cost would be the necessity of designing (engineering) leak proof containment to prevent CO2 seeping out and smothering everything around.

Brian H

Every cent spent on CCS increases the costs of energy generation. Which is the real goal.
__
Bill Tuttle;
We’re offsetting opposites. My hair thinned by age 40, but I have no grey or white hair at age 65 (other than facial hair, which is optional).

Allan MacRae

DirkH says: April 19, 2012 at 12:32 am
This German company turns wind/solar power into Methane and builds a pilot plant for Audi, to be ready in 2013.
http://www.solar-fuel.net/en/the-challenge
Don’t know about the economics.
_________
Interesting scheme, but I suggest the economics will be quite unattractive.
Economics will improve (but still could remain unattractive) if you give zero value to the wind power, which is actually just about what it is worth.

Pumping CO2 into oil and gas wells under the sea is illegal under international law: essentially dumping toxic waste (well, the greenies think CO2 is toxic!) at sea.
Then of course the CO2 will come back out again. Ships tend to sink if they try to float in soda water!

Bill Tuttle

Brian — my old battalion’s Sergeant-Major used to say, “Better gray than nay” — but he shaved his head, nonetheless…

Peter Miller

It has all already been said here.
So I will just summarise:
Category: Goofy, greenie ideas,
Sub Category: Pointless, expensive, stupid and impractical.
Prize: First

wayne Job

The crops in the northern hemisphere over the coming decades may be depleted badly over the coming decades by some cooler weather. Now is the time to grow hugely excessive crops of barley and hops.
This would achieve many goals even green ones. Beer in those cold decades will become a luxury unless we brew it now, for massive carbon capture and storage. The need for huge quantities of stainless steel containers would ensure mining and manufacturing jobs.
The brewers would qualify for huge subsidies in carbon capture and would run at a profit without selling beer. This is a win win situation, the beer sold in the future decades would ensure some huge profits. A beer futures prospectus will be available soon.

Garry Stotel

I was goint to say that we need’nt worry, because this nonsense will never work.
But then I thought that it is not the point – the point is money and power appropriation, by using some scientifically sounding excuse. So, yes, I feel sorry for the £1Bn totally wasted.

Jeef

Perhaps we can inject waste co2 into fraccing wells….

AndyG55

I must admit that when out in the surf, there certainly seems to be a LOT less oxygen than when I was younger..
As I’m still in peak condition (lol) the increase in CO2 can be the only explanation !!
Wish I was a plant, then I’d be really happy !!
Real environmentalists LUV CO2 because they know it does only good !!!

RichieP

An extraordinary popular delusion is further fuelled.

Garry

CCS is right up there with geoengineering for its stark-raving insanity.

Brian H

Bill;
I wasn’t clear; I still have hair, just thinned somewhat. No areas of “nay”. Whiskers are a mix of dark, grey, and white; I’m currently showing them, though the dramatic effect that has on people’s assumptions about my degree of elderhood may cause me to go bareface again soon ….

old construction worker

We have a CCS process. The technology has been around for years. If you want to buy a bottle of co2 just go to your local hardware store. They are available in 10lb, 15lb and 20lb containers. They are red with a black handle and hose. They are called a ABC Fire Extinguisher.
Picture this: next to a coal fired power plant build a huge plant pulling co2 out of the atmosphere, storing it in a huge red container with a black handle with a hose going underground. While we are at it. The Governments/UN, in all its wisdom, could mandate that everyone on the planet carry a 15lb Fire Extinguisher at all times. All new and remodeled buildings must have a 1000lb Co2 fire extinguisher system for every 1000 cubic ft of area. All paid for by the taxpayer creating useless jobs for a useless problem.

Robert S

Combustion of pulverised fuel (coal) in oxygen would lead to a reduced flue gas flow and booster/compressor power consumption but would lead to very high flame temperatures in the combustion zone. The boiler tubes and refractories would have be special to deal with the high heat flux. Clearly CCS would not just be a booster bolt on to a conventional boiler plant but would require a completely new steam generation system. The power consumed transporting the CO2 enhanced flue gas to storage beneath the seabed and in separating N2 from air initially would still be very high probably requiring the output from an additional power station and so on ad infinitum. As CO2 does not cause global warming the whole excercise is completely unnecessary.

dave ward

“And the additional costs can be passed onto consumers”
Tells you all you need to know…

Lord Haw Haw

plant a f*ckin tree

Pete in Cumbria UK

Going on from Lord Haw Haw at 3:13, seriously, grow stuff (anything), turn it into charcoal and give it to the farmers. Once they get the hang of it they might even buy it. Farmers being farmers tho, that is of course very doubtful ;-D
Look up ‘biochar’ – its a win win win, except for university types and other rent seekers simply because it is so lo-tech.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar
http://www.biochar-international.org/

Meyer

Carbon capture is a great way to waste fuel and thereby drive prices up in an already strained market. Hopefully the economic damage is not severe enough to prevent an adequate response to natural disasters in the future.

Mike M

Eric says: April 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm
I just recently concluded an experiment on the adverse effects of CO2 on human health…but then begins to slowly degrade the human body in the following ways: hair loss…

I’ve concluded that I’ve had no actual hair loss but that increased CO2 has merely caused it to grow backwards into my brain and out my ears and nose. It explains everything including memory loss and a substantial discount at the barber shop…