Carbon capture and storage technology promises fossil fuels without the carbon dioxide. But can the fledgling technology deliver on this promise?
On May 27th, I hosted an Energy Collective #EnergyChat webinar, sponsored by Shell, on precisely this topic.
For a full hour, we chatted with a panel of experts on carbon capture and storage, or CCS technology, which could be a critical technology in the fight to avert climate change.
Global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be cut in half by 2050 and fall to zero or even below that by 2100 in order to keep atmospheric concentrations of these climate-warming gases below the equivalent of 450 ppm of CO2.
That would give the world a roughly even chance of halting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, an internationally-agreed target intended to prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change.
The ability to capture and permanently store CO2 emissions from fossil fueled power plants and industrial sources features prominently in virtually every published strategy consistent with this 2 degrees Celsius target.
Yet carbon capture and storage is still a nascent technology. While the individual components — CO2 separation, compression, and deep well injection — are all well established in the oil and gas industry, only a handful full-scale CCS projects are in operation worldwide and the technology remains expensive.
So can carbon capture and storage deliver on the promise of CO2-free fossil fuels?
To get to the bottom of this critical question, we brought together three experts on CCS technology:
- Howard Herzog is a senior research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative, where he was a Coordinating Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and a co-author of the MIT Energy Initiative’s Future of Coal report.
- Tim Wiwchar manages Shell Energy’s Quest carbon capture and storage project in Alberta Canada and brings an on-the-ground perspective on the challenges and opportunities of CCS to the discussion.
- Finally, John Thompson is Director of the Coal Transition Project at Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit organization that works to cut atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gases in the United States and China.
Below we’ve posted a Storify compiling a few good resources on CCS and summarizing some of the key points discussed on Twitter during the webinar.
Another special thanks to our sponsor Shell for making this conversation possible.