• IEA argues that CCUS is essential to decarbonisation and worth the price

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The International Energy Agency has published a blog post asking if carbon capture, utilisation and storage is too expensive, and true to Betteridge’s law of headlines, the answer is ‘no’. The arguments why are somewhat familiar, but the nuance and the data charts provided to back up those arguments are interesting.

Firstly, CCUS can be retrofitted to existing power installations which will continue to be used even when it may be that it would be cheaper to install renewable power generation technologies. Secondly, other industrial sectors, such as steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing have limited decarbonisation options, and CCUS is seen as essential, or at least important alternatives, for many. Thirdly, CCUS will be essential in creating ‘blue’ hydrogen, seen as a necessary stage in the development of the hydrogen economy. And, finally, CCUS can be combined with biomass firing to create negative emissions scenarios.

The detail is informative. Carbon capture costs per tonne of carbon dioxide vary from sector to sector, with cement generally highest, followed by iron and steel and then power generation, while chemicals industries generally have lower capture costs. (Direct air capture costs are far above all.) Storage costs also vary significantly, from ‘negative’ (in enhanced oil recovery) to around US$55/tonne, but 80% of storage sites in the USA are at US$15/tonne or less. The cement industry has no viable alternative to decarbonization that does not incorporate CCUS, while in the iron and steel sector CCUS would add around 10% in costs, significantly below hydrogen-fired solutions. The authors also argue that CCUS will play a vital role in enabling high proportions of solar and wind installations by providing low-carbon on-demand power “to ensure the stable operation of power systems”.

Finally, CCUS as a technology, though proven in around 20 installations worldwide, is not yet mature in a commercial sense, and with greater deployment costs will fall, making the cost argument against CCUS weaker.  The IEA projects that after a fall in costs of 35% per captured tonne from the Boundary Dam installation (2014) to the Petra Nova installation (2017), costs are expected to fall a further 30% by 2025, to around US$45/tonne. Against this background, the blog concludes with a call for further policy support for CCUS.