Carbon Capture & Sequestration Trends: Worldwatch Institute

The WorldWatch Institute has published a new report in its Vital Signs series on the current and projected status of carbon capture and sequestration. The report portrays a complicated landscape for CCS. Among the take-aways from the report:

  1. CCS funding remains virtually unchanged in 2011, with total government funding at $23.5 billion;
  2. There are 75 large-scale fully integrated CCS projects in 17 countries, with 8 plants operational, the same number as in 2009 and 2018.
    1. The 8 projects (none of which are associated with power production facilities; six are for natural gas processing) store a combined total of 23.18 million tons of carbon dioxide annually;
    2. 7 large-scale CCS plants are currently under construction, but 13 projects were cancelled or postponed in 2011, most on economic grounds, though at least one was cancelled due to local opposition;
    3. If all active and planned projects are constructed, they would have storage capacity equal to 0.5% of global emissions from energy use in 2010;
  3. An additional $2.5-3 trilllion in investments will be necessary between 2010 and 2050 to reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2050; this would entail the construction of 3000 large-scale CCS plants;
  4. Incremental costs of CCS technology are very high, increasing the levelized costs of coal plants by 39-64%, increasing prices between 10.2-1.7 cents per kilowatt hour, or a 33% increase in electricity costs for natural gas plants;
  5. CCS plants increase water usage for coal plants by between 87-93% per megawatt hour, as well as causing relatively plant efficiency losses of 15% for natural gas power plants and 20-25% for coal-fired power plants.

Among the discussion questions that this report might generate in class are the following:

  • What impact, if any, does the precipitous drop in natural gas prices in recent years have on the prospects for CCS?;
  • Given the substantial costs associated with deployment of CCS, as well as ancillary environmental impacts, are the opportunity costs of CCS too high to justify its pursuit as a policy option in the future?


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