Can CCS Be The Solution To The Issue Of Global Warming?

The Bloomberg New Energy Finance has recently predicted that by 2013 the EU carbon market will be worth € 80 billion and then increase to € 94 billion by 2014. This market in essence is a response based on free market principles to the issue of climate change. Even after the checkered track record of Kyoto Protocol the world has not lost faith in the idea that emission reduction and mitigation is the most effective way to fight Global Warming. As we continue to cap and trade our net emission and try to make a quick buck while saving the planet another idea has been gaining prominence; Carbon Sequestration.


Carbon Sequestration or CCS holds the promise of continued use of fossil fuel without the guilt of carbon emission. More than the lure of guilt free pollution the apparent failure of current measures at arresting absolute emission is prompting nations to make CCS a key element of their environmental policy. (See: UK CCS Roadmap). Can CCS redeem the companies from the austerity of low carbon footprint? In an ideal world, Federal legislations and tax incentives would have stopped or even just reduced climate change and produced a stronger global economy. But it is easier said than done.

Some believe that CCS might enable us to meet the UN defined target of keeping warming below 20C. Consider a study conducted by a leading group of climate researchers at the Oxford University. They suggest that fossil fuel producers should be mandated to sequester a steadily increasing fraction of the carbon they extract from the ground, with the fraction set to reach 100 per cent before total emissions into the atmosphere exceed an agreed total, and costs passed on to fossil fuel consumers. They have christened the concept as SAFE. “The neat thing about SAFE carbon is that is breaks the apparent conflict between short-term economic development and long-term climate protection, ” says Dr. Myles Allen, Physics professor at Oxford University and an author of the paper. Dr. Allen is saying that a country would no longer need to accept limits on their consumption as long as they use SAFE carbon.  

But the industry is finding little economic incentive in the idea. Take the example of power plants, equipping coal- and gas-fired plant with CCS makes them considerably more expensive to run. The efficiency also takes a toll as more fuel has to be burnt to produce the same amount of electricity. The problem lies in the high cost of the current process. The CO2 has to be captured first, and then transported thousands of meters below the earth to a secure location, most likely in liquid form via pipelines. The disposal site should also be thoroughly inspected to ensure there are no leakages. Someone needs to bear the extra cost. On top of this are some grave safety concerns. The Lake Nyos disaster is a dreadful reminder of how a poor implementation of the project can backfire. Source: IEA CCS 2050 

However, there are some champions of the cause. Statoil, a Norwegian oil company, had been injecting CO2 into an old reservoir on the North Sea Sleipner field since 1996 and have disposed of almost 13 million tons of CO2 in this manner. But the technology still has a long way to go before finding popular acceptance. Al Gore had written in a New York Times column that the notion of carbon capture and sequestration as “the strategy for human survival” is “a cynical and self-interested illusion.” Perhaps this decade will be more promising for CCS.

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