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Thursday, October 10, 2013

CCS lags still further as we race to the climate abyss


If greenhouse emissions continue their inexorable rise, temperatures across more than 80 percent of the earth will soon - within 34 years, in some cases - rise to levels with no recorded precedent.  In that radically different climate, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past”, forever changing life as we know it.

We are already, for example, taking the “perma” out of permafrost and acidifying the oceans, with potentially unimaginable consequences.

The outlook from history’s largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment – the deliberate carbonization of our atmosphere - is increasingly grim.  And the policy response to deploying urgently-needed climate-saving technologies continues to be anemic at best – indeed, perversely, self-destructively moribund.

This point has been brought home yet again by a new report from The Global CCS Institute.  The Global Status of CCS 2013  finds that despite the fact that the International Energy Agency has declared that “urgent” and “decisive actions” from governments are needed now to move deployment of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) beyond the demonstration phase, the number of large-scale CCS projects has fallen to 65 from 75 over the past year.  Since last year, the report said five projects have been canceled, one reduced in size and seven postponed, while only three have been added.

The leader in CCS technology is the United States, the report says, although that is mostly because of the use of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. Otherwise, the American CCS program is lagging, and there are more questions than answers about CCS’ viability as a climate mitigation tool.

The report sums up the situation: 
To effectively mitigate climate change and provide energy security, there is an urgent need to progress carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects around the world…It is vital that CCS is included in a portfolio of low–carbon technologies to tackle climate change at least cost.
The report identifies 6 “musts” for CCS deployment:
  1. Implement sustained policy support that includes long-term commitments to climate change mitigation and strong market–based mechanisms that ensure CCS is not disadvantaged.
  2. Boost short-term support for the implementation of demonstration projects. This will require targeted financial support measures that enable first mover projects to progress faster through development planning into construction and provide necessary support during operations.
  3. Implement measures to deal with the remaining critical regulatory uncertainties, such as long-term liabilities.
  4. Continue strong funding support for CCS research and development activities and encourage collaborative approaches to knowledge sharing across the CCS community.
  5. Create a positive pathway for CCS demonstration by advancing plans for storage site selection.
  6. Encourage the efficient design and development of transportation infrastructure through shared hub opportunities to become ‘trunk lines’ for several carbon dioxide capture projects. 
Items 2, 3, 5, and 6 were embodied in the Pennsylvania CCS model, an innovative and comprehensive approach aimed at early, commercial-scale CCS deployment that was developed four years ago in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative. I was privileged to lead the Commonwealth’s effort. 

The network approach that we pioneered has recently been embraced by other nations, and The Global CCS Institute has underscored its potential power – and its necessity.



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