Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions


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Other solutions focus on strengthening our climate resilience.

The capture and utilization of CO2 and other carbon oxides emitted from power generation and industrial facilities has been technologically feasible for generations and has gained greater attention in recent years as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Captured …. View Details Download pdf, KB. Here you'll find the basics on climate science, key energy and emissions trends, extreme weather, and other climate impacts.

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Topics Climate Impacts. Tags Impacts Extreme Weather. Topics Extreme Weather. Tags Business Impacts Extreme Weather. C2ES is known worldwide as a thought leader and trusted convener on critical climate and energy challenges. Here is a sampling of our key initiatives:. We work with Fortune companies across key sectors to strengthen business action and support for effective climate policies.

C2ES is a participant and co-founder of a broad coalition of business, labor, and environmental groups working to accelerate commercial deployment of carbon capture technologies. C2ES regularly organizes events with top experts, policymakers and business leaders advancing the public debate on climate challenges and solutions. Nevertheless, it is clear, from a macro-economic perspective, that the world is far better off with concerted action to achieve deep cuts in GHG emissions than it would be otherwise. However, our global economic system is not set up to either measure or reward firms or individual countries for acting in the common good.

Firms of all kinds must seek to maximise profit so that they can remain in business and deliver shareholder returns. Society, and the governments that represent them, must therefore regulate the activities of the market to achieve desired social outcomes. Hence, widespread discussions are currently underway worldwide to put in place mechanisms which will effectively put a price on carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Reducing emissions from electrical power generation is one of the most important steps than can be taken in an overall GHG mitigation effort.

The widespread adoption of coal-fired power, especially in the rapidly developing economies of China and India, is predicted to significantly increase the overall emissions from this sector over the next twenty years. On this basis, there is now significant agreement among policymakers in many countries that carbon capture and geo-sequestration CCS has a vital role to play in the overall efforts to reduce GHG emissions worldwide. In particular, our ability to retrofit existing coal-fired power plants, and to retro-fit other types of high-emission facilities with post-combustion capture, will be essential if we are to meet desired atmospheric stabilisation targets.

The problem is that capture and geologic storage of CO 2 is generally considered to be expensive. CCS has been widely identified as a significant potential contributor to global strategies aimed at reducing emissions of GHG to the atmosphere. Much of the focus on CCS to date has been in the area of government funded research and development, both in terms of capture technology, and in studying the long term fate and mobility of CO 2 in various subsurface environments.

In particular, CCS has been seen as a way to significantly reduce the GHG impacts of the widespread global use of coal for electrical power generation. On this basis, governments in several developed nations such as the USA, Canada, Australia and some in Europe continue to fund a range of demonstration projects designed to prove the technology, develop operational experience, and spearhead the drive to cost-efficiency. The technical feasibility of each of the individual components of CCS capture, transport and geological sequestration is well understood.

In the gas industry, amine systems for removing entrained CO 2 in raw gas have been widely used for years. The basic technology is mature and robust. Equally, the transport of CO 2 via pipeline is well understood. Thousands of kilometres of CO 2 pipeline systems have been laid and operated, much of it associated with dedicated enhanced oil recovery operations.

The geo-sequestration element of CCS is the least well-developed of the three components, but nevertheless the petroleum and waste management industries have decades of experience in injecting fluids of all types into geological formations for long-term storage. Nevertheless, there continues to be significant public opposition and concern about the risks associated with long term CO 2 leakage from storage sites [ 10 ]. It is perhaps in the combination of all of these elements into a fully-integrated project that the main challenges for CCS arise.

Globally, there are 62 active or planned commercial scale integrated CCS projects, comprising capture, transport and sequestration elements, sequestering over 1 Mtpa CO 2 [ 11 ]. Of these, however, only seven projects are currently in the operational stage; the remainder are in the evaluation, definition, or execution stages.

To date, it has been in the petroleum industry that much of this full-scale operational application of CCS has occurred: six of the projects are at natural gas processing facilities and, of those, two are offshore.

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As will be discussed below, much of the reason for the leadership of the gas sector in CCS is that the marginal cost of applying CCS in this sector is generally significantly lower than in other sectors, particularly coal-fired power generation [ 12 ]. The overall life-cycle environmental, social and economic sustainability of CCS is examined through considering three different applications: managing the CO 2 entrained in reservoir gas in the natural gas sector; retro-fit of CCS to stationary fixed coal-fired power generation; and reducing the GHG footprint of a liquefied natural gas plant LNG.

In these examples, the Environmental and Economic Sustainability Assessment EESA method is used, in which various options are considered by not only examining conventional financial costs of abatement, but also explicitly valuing the environmental and social externalities affected by each option [ 13 ]. While carbon emissions to atmosphere are clearly the major externality, other external costs and benefits also exist.

In this analysis, a sustainable and economic solution is one which generates more benefit than cost, to all stakeholders, when all environmental, social and economic factors are considered across the full life cycle.


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Two of the largest and most successful projects have been offshore, both in Norway, where a significant and long-standing carbon pricing mechanism since has helped to drive development of CCS. CO2 is removed from the gas stream and piped about km back to the field for injection through a dedicated well. Since April , around 0. A monitoring program has been set-up to investigate the behaviour of CO 2 underground.

By capturing some of the CO 2 from the reservoir gas, the CO 2 level is reduced to 2. The Sleipner capture and storage gas processing facility, operational since , is one of the global pioneers of CCS. Approximately 1 Mtpa of CO 2 is separated from produced gas and injected into a saline aquifer above the hydrocarbon reservoir zones.

Maximum injection is planned for 20 Mt, with 8 Mt injected to date. Recent reviews have shown that the cost of CCS for CO 2 entrained in the raw reservoir gas is low compared to other applications. Initial reservoir identification and characterization costs are typically in the range of USD 25 m to m. The availability of a well characterized down-dip part of the producing reservoir for geo-sequestration added significantly to the overall technical feasibility of CCS. An existing coal-fired power station in Australia was examined in a detailed engineering, economic and sustainability feasibility study to determine the practicality of applying CCS to dramatically reduce GHG emissions.

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The analysis considered all aspects of the retrofit, including plant layout and access, capture technology selection, transport of CO 2 , and identification of suitable disposal sites, within a context of what can be achieved today, with existing technology, knowledge and resources. A wide range of currently available capture technologies was considered. As shown in Table 2 , not all are applicable to post-combustion capture, and not all are commercially available.

On this basis, and because of the limited process information available for most of the other technologies, the study was based on a monoethanolamine capture technology, which is both commercially available through a number of vendors, and is fully applicable to the large-scale retrofit being considered. Installation of the CO 2 capture system and compression at the plant will require an area of about 3, m 2 for the smaller option, and 4, m 2 for the larger capacity option. Installation of the capture system has a significant effect on the performance of the plant.

The monoethanolamine system puts a significant additional energy demand on the plant.

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Table 3 exhibits one of the ironies of CCS in this application: to capture CO 2 , significantly more coal must be burned. Nevertheless, option 2 reduces overall annual emissions from 2 Mt to about 0.

A permitted and available geo-sequestration site was assumed to exist approximately km from the power station. Transport of CO 2 overland by pipeline was assumed. Pipeline is the established method for moving large volumes of CO 2 over long distances. Most of the current expertise in CO 2 transport lies in the petroleum industry, where CO 2 is widely used for enhanced oil recovery.

Two scenarios were considered: one where a dedicated pipeline transports 3 Mtpa of CO 2 to the sequestration site, and another where several operators share a larger 12 Mtpa transport and sequestration system and share the associated economies of scale. Compression power of 40 MW is provided at the plant.

The least preferred scenario included dedicated infrastructure, poor sequestration reservoir performance, and high estimates for capture costs, while the preferred scenario involved shared infrastructure with unit costs approximately one-third lower than dedicated infrastructure , low-end estimates of capture costs and optimal reservoir performance. It is also important to note that the highest uncertainty in cost was associated with the sequestration component.

The range of unit cost estimates reflects the commercial and engineering uncertainty inherent in delivering a complete CCS project at the present time. This analysis, for a real facility, using technology available now, shows that under present policy positions, retrofitting existing coal-fired power stations is a not financially viable proposition for operators. The main benefit of employing CCS is to create and environmental and social benefit associated with reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The value of this benefit is expressed as the social cost of carbon, or the real value of the damage caused to society by each additional tonne of GHG emitted to the atmosphere.

However, until an effective price on carbon exists, operators have no financial incentive to deploy CCS. A much more advantageous approach for this operator in the near term would be to examine other alternatives to removing carbon emissions from its overall portfolio, where this can be achieved at lower cost. This might include examining new build plants using more efficient super-critical designs, and pre-combustion options located closer to disposal sites.

While carbon emission reduction is the chief benefit of CCS, removal of other air pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, particulates, and even heavy metals, may also occur as a result of capturing and treating effluents.

The Environmental and Economic Sustainability of Carbon Capture and Storage

The valuation of these additional atmospheric benefits is discussed in more detail in the following example. In addition, there is also a range of potential external costs associated with deep geological disposal of CO 2. Any of these eventualities could generate significant external social and environmental costs. The likelihood and magnitude of these risks will vary considerably depending on the geological conditions of the reservoir, location, nearby population density, and the vulnerability of nearby aquifers [ 16 ]. Proper sequestration site selection, design and monitoring can significantly reduce the risk of leakage and the severity of impact should leakage occur [ 17 ].

All of these external costs would make CCS more costly from an overall environmental, social and economic perspective, over the long term. Only if the social cost of carbon is sufficiently reflected in an effective price for carbon, and if it rises significantly over time, will the operator, in this example, be able to justify deploying CCS. LNG operations release GHG emissions at various stages of production, shipping, re-gasification, storage and distribution, including consumption.

Given the predominance of cost associated with carbon capture, this discussion focuses on the capture element only, and assumes that CO 2 can be readily disposed of into suitable geological formations close to the facility.

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Offshore disposal into a depleted natural gas field would also reduce concerns over external costs associated with possible long term leakage of CO 2 from the reservoir. In this analysis, seven CCS cases were examined and compared in terms of effectiveness and cost, and put into a larger context by including four other ways of reducing GHG emissions from the facility. CCS options involve various combinations of pre- versus post-combustion capture, central power station and direct drive, and retrofit versus new build installation.

Table 5 lists each case along with a median estimate of the total capital and operational costs for the facility as equipped. For retrofit options, these figures include lost revenue from down-time, and assume a retrofit date of As shown, the capital expenditure associated with each case varies considerably.

Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions
Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions Climate and Energy: The Feasibility of Controlling CO2 Emissions

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