Global Witness and Friends of the Earth Scotland claims carbon capture and storage is not a viable option for the rapid emissions cuts required in energy over the crucial years to 2030
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology cannot meet the “urgent need” to reduce emissions and solve the climate crisis, says a report.
The analysis by the Tyndall Centre, which was commissioned by environmental groups Global Witness and Friends of the Earth Scotland, claims the emerging technology is “not a viable option for the rapid emissions cuts required in energy over the crucial years to 2030”.
CCS – which involves removing CO2 from the atmosphere, transporting it to a storage site and depositing it often underground – is a technology that’s attracted growing interest recently.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) views it as the only group of technologies that contributes both to reducing emissions in key sectors directly and to removing CO2 from the atmosphere to balance the emissions that are the hardest to prevent.
But Friends of the Earth Scotland’s climate campaigner Jess Cowell said: “The world needs urgent cuts to climate emissions every year of this decade but CCS can’t deliver anything meaningful until the 2030s, if at all.
“Politicians and CCS’ backers in the fossil fuel industry want us to trust them with a technology with a long history of over-promising and under-delivering.
“The shocking revelations that the small number of existing carbon capture plants in existence are almost all being used to increase fossil fuel extraction must give pause to anyone that is pushing this as a realistic solution to the climate crisis.”
No operational carbon capture plants in UKdespite climate crisis
The report highlights there are currently no operational CCS plants in the UK today and significant deployment is “not expected until at least the next decade”.
Projects under development in Britain include the use of CCS to reduce emissions from a gas plant in England’s Humber region, as well as an initiative to produce low-carbon hydrogen from natural gas in Scotland.
Globally, there are 26 CCS plants in operation, which the analysis notes is “far short” of the projected development over the past two decades.
Up to 81% of carbon captured to date used to extract more oil via the process of Enhanced Oil Recovery [EOR], and at this stage CCS planned deployment remains dominated by EOR, according to the report.
It added that the technology has “consistently failed” to deliver on projections with several of the planned schemes being initiated before they are later abandoned.
The analysis shows that while the G8 committed to launching 20 large-scale projects by 2010, and the IEA set a goal of 100 projects by 2020, only five have since materialised – with two £1bn ($1.35bn) British competitions having failed to deliver any demonstration projects.
Carbon capture a “dangerous distraction” in bid to cut climate emissions
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent adviser to the UK Parliament, projects there will be a CCS capacity to remove up to 176 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050.
But the report claims there is no operational capacity for the technology in the country and in order to meet that target, it added that Britain would be required to quadruple the entire current global CCS capacity.
In the UK governments’ recent 10-point climate plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged a further £200m ($271m) investment into CCS initiatives.
Meanwhile, in December’s update to the Climate Change Plan, the Scottish Government announced £80m ($108m) of funding to support the development of CCS and other “negative emission technologies’ in Scotland.
Cowell said: “The Scottish Government plan of relying on CCS to do the heavy lifting of emissions cuts by 2030 isn’t remotely credible when there isn’t a single working CCS plant anywhere in the UK.
“Public money would deliver more jobs, faster emissions cuts and bigger boosts to wellbeing if it was invested in a range of renewables and energy efficiency measures instead of being wasted on more illusory carbon capture projects.”
She believes the report makes it clear that CCS is a “dangerous distraction” from the necessary action to cut climate emissions from the energy sector in what is a “crucial decade”.
“Instead we need a bold plan setting out steps to phase out fossil fuel extraction and use, while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities dependent on the industry,” Cowell added.
“Carbon is already captured and stored underground in fossil fuels. We should be leaving it there instead of spending billions trying to invent technology to solve this problem of our own creation.”