A case study on Carbon Capture. Includes information on the issues of transport and storage security, technology maturity and side effects.
You have been employed on an advisory basis by an environmental NGO to help them develop and communicate their stance on CCS technology. Such technology has recently gained significant international support as the primary means of reducing the CO2 emissions associated with power production, at least in the short to medium term.
As a result it has become imperative for all interested parties to develop a well constructed position on the use of this technology. Consultations are ongoing through a number of national and international bodies to develop policies that will govern the development and roll out of CCS.
One example of this is the consultation on whether CCS should be incorporated into the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that allows countries with emissions targets to implement carbon reduction projects in developing countries. Such reductions earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits which can be counted towards Kyoto targets.
In preparation for your first meeting with the team who will be developing the policy position of the NGO, you summarise the main issues that you take to be at stake in the debate:
Transport and storage security – one of the primary questions is whether CO2 can be transported and stored in such a way that it cannot escape, either by gradual seepage or by catastrophic event. The risk of either possibility must be known in order to assess the desirability of implementing CCS.
In order to know whether CCS is an appropriate way of meeting carbon reduction targets, the feasible time scale for rolling out the technology must be established, and the speed at which it could be ramped up.
Side effects – besides the direct effects of capturing CO2, all other incidental effects must be considered in any decision to deploy CCS. A number of potential side-effects have been raised: encouraging increased use of fossil fuels over a longer period; enabling increased recovery of hydrocarbons by storing pressurised CO2 in existing oil, gas and coal fields; and the diversion of resources away from research into fully sustainable energy.