• Claims CCS is an “extremely improbable solution” difficult to justify

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has written a piece on The Hill website in agreement with the opinion of noted climate activist Al Gore that carbon capture and storage is “an extremely improbable solution”. Two prongs to the argument are given: one, that the technology is too expensive, and two, that there is too much carbon dioxide to be stored (and storage may not be safe). Mississippi Power’s Kemper plant is cited as the textbook case of costs being far too high, and it is true that CCS would be prohibitive on a cost basis if all installations were as expensive as Kemper. However, other CCS-equipped plants have been more cost efficient, and the latest estimates of SaskPower are that a new installation would be only one third of the cost per tonne of carbon compared to the company’s successful Boundary Dam installation (itself cheaper than Kemper). With much research underway around the world into many aspects of carbon capture and reuse, these costs will fall further again, in a way somewhat similar to the falling costs of renewables as they have been developed and deployed. It remains to be seen if costs – including consideration of the selling of byproducts, and policy support – will fall far enough quickly enough for widespread deployment of CCS, but there is a reasonable chance that they will. In respect to the storage of so much carbon, there have been numerous estimates of storage capacities around the world. The EC-funded research project GeoCapacity, completed in 2009, found that Europe had a conservative effective total storage capacity of 117 Gt of CO2, equal to around 62 years of emissions from large point sources within the continent (at that time). Whether it would be economic to use all of this capacity is uncertain, but the study does suggest that captured CO2 for at least a number of decades could be stored, as capturing all CO2 from all large EU point sources is far on the horizon. Together, these make CCS a reasonably possible solution rather than an extremely improbable one.