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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Report: CCS emission savings may be lower than predicted

International NGOs and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have called for rapid commercialization and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in the battle against climate change. But researchers at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom have released study, published in the journal Energy Policy, that claims that coal-fired power stations fitted with CCS could even have a greater overall impact on the environment than conventional natural gas-fired plants without CCS.

The study finds that CCS – if it’s ever deployed at commercial scale - may remove 90 per cent of CO2 emissions directly from coal and gas fired power plants, but only results in a 70 per cent cut in overall emissions produced on a life-cycle basis - once fuel processing and transport-related emissions, as well as leaks of methane from mines, wells, and pipelines are considered.

While a 70 per cent cut is still a significant CO2 emissions reduction, the authors warn that their findings result in "seriously underestimate(ing) the challenge of achieving a decarbonised electricity sector."

The authors note that if other environmental factors such as human toxicity, particulate matter formation, and fossil fuel depletion are taken into account, coal with CCS actually has a higher environmental impact than conventional gas-fired power. Still, they join with the rest of the world in calling for faster deployment of CCS technology.

The true CCS prize, in my view - if methane leakage is minimized - is gas-fired power with CCS, which could achieve near-zero carbon emissions, and emit no mercury, lead, or arsenic, and little soot

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