Global significance of Carbon Capture
Here’s why CCS is vital for tackling climate change, and why the Coalition’s decision to cancel the Longannet project matters. A UN Special Report on CCS (2005) identified CSS as part of “a portfolio of measures that will be needed” to achieve the stabilisation of greenhouse gas emissions. It is a process that involves separating CO2 from industry and energy-related sources, transport to a storage site and long-term storage away from the atmosphere. The UN study comments that most future energy scenarios project that the supply of primary energy will continue to be dominated by fossil fuels until at least mid-century. Further, “most scenarios for global energy use project a substantial increase of CO2 emissions throughout the century in the absence of specific actions to mitigate climate change.”
Around 60% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels originate from a core of around 7,900 heavy emitting stationary sources globally – power stations and energy-intensive installations such as steel and aluminium works. These sites emit more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, an aggregate total of 13.5 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. Current capture systems for power plants are capable of capturing 85% to 95% of CO2.
For some years the UK Government has recognised the global deployment potential of the technology, notably for China, where rapid growth is fuelling a huge surge in CO2 emissions, especially from its massive coal consumption for both energy and steel production, yet facing severe challenges on pollution, crop production and water supply. The one resource that is not apparently constrained is coal – China has the third largest recoverable coal reserves.
China is building on average one new coal station every four days, and built in 2006 as much new coal-fired power (92 Gigawatts) as the whole of the UK’s electricity generating capacity (coal, gas, nuclear and renewables).
If successful, regional CCS networks like the Yorkshire Forward project would be the first of their kind globally, capturing about a tenth of total UK emissions, or one-fifth (19.6%) of emissions from the whole of the UK’s energy and industrial sectors. This project therefore has considerable global potential, not only in tackling CO2 emissions but industrially.
Hopefully, projects like the Aire valley and Tees Valley will feature in bids for funding from the Government’s carbon capture and storage competition, whenever it is re-launched.