Carbon capture and storage is a very promising technology designed to reduce the impact of climate change. However, while the basic principles of CCS have been discussed since the 1970s, people have only recently started taking it seriously, thanks to the Paris Agreement and the carbon tax within the budget deal signed by President Donald Trump in February. This week, it became clear that CCS is being taken seriously as it got both environmental advocates and oil and gas executives attending an international energy conference to do something they never do: agree.
On Monday at CERAWeek, an annual energy conference that attracts an international crowd of industry professionals, scientists, and government officials, oil and gas executives reiterated the need to adopt CCS as a way to both limit greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and allow the oil and gas industry to succeed.
“Everybody agrees that we need CCS, at a large scale and affordable, CCS, if we’re going to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Terje Søviknes, the Norwegian petroleum and energy minister at CCS, reports Time. On Monday, Søviknes took part in the talk “Energy and Climate Policy: Searching for the Balance.”
While the support is there, CCS has been held back by its extreme costs and overshadowed by progress in wind and solar energy — which some advocates consider more attractive options because they cut out fossil fuels. But the world is still highly dependent on fossil fuels, and CCS is the only technological option that allows us to use them without emitting carbon dioxide. Scientists say that while we transition to renewable energy, CCS can play a crucial role in keeping temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
A tax credit, pushed by Republican Senator John Barrasso and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, is poised to help CCS overcome that cost hurdle. This means that a tax credit of $50 will be awarded for every metric ton of carbon dioxide buried underground and $35 for every ton used in another way. In six years, companies can qualify for projects, and they can claim the credits in twelve. Energy researchers say that this tax credit will what triggers the embracement of CCS.
“I think we’ll see dozens of [carbon-capture] projects appear in the next couple of years that could not have happened otherwise,” Julio Freidman of Energy Futures Initiative told MIT Technology Review.
CCS is actually a set of technologies that drive a three-part process: The capturing of carbon dioxide from power plants, the transportation of that captured and compressed carbon dioxide, and the underground injection and geological sequestration of the carbon dioxide into deep underground rock formations. Experts say CCS helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions while allowing for power plants to keep generating low-carbon electricity. Approximately 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from electric power generation, and it’s estimated that CCS technologies could reduce 80 to 90 percent of those emissions.
While 23 large-scale CCS projects are currently being developed, there are only two fully functional power plants using CCS in the world: the Petra Nova facility near Houston, Texas and the Boundary Dam plant in Saskatchewan, Canada. To mitigate the impacts of climate change and keep carbon dioxide out of the environment, the pace of CCS adoption will have to seriously pick up.