Carbon capture and storage

A costly proposal

Sascha Rentzing, 15 Dec 14
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sees carbon capture at coal-fired power plants as a key technology in the fight against climate change. The technology itself will soon be ready for market, but the high costs and unresolved storage issue will hamper its introduction.

So, the fight against climate change is moving on at pace,,is it? Not really, no. The success of renewable energies in Germany is little more than a drop in the ocean. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects global energy demand to increase by more than a third by 2040. To meet this demand, coal consumption will rise by 15 percent, with especially high increases in China and India. This could further delay a turnaround in the dangerous levels of carbon emissions. In its latest report on climate change, the IPCC therefore calls for radical change: carbon emissions must be reduced by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, it says, if global warming is to be kept down to an acceptable level of two degrees. Industrialised nations have an especially large responsibility, as they will have to compensate for the rampant coal boom in the newly industrialised countries. The IPCC sees only one solution: older coal-f red power plants must quickly be decommissioned, while new plants should adopt CCS (carbon capture and storage). This technology can be used to remove up to 90 percent of the CO2 from a power plant’s combustion gases and store it underground.

In some countries, the technology is already being tested on a larger scale. The Global CCS Institute in Australia reports that 22 industrial CCS projects are currently under way worldwide, mostly in Canada, the US and the UK. However, carbon capture and storage could also become significant in Germany. Uwe Leprich, an energy expert based in Saarbrücken, expects a gradual phase-out of coal in the country. He says that following the nuclear phase-out, coal-f red power plants will probably remain part of the system for a while longer. Given that, retrofitting the remaining plants with CCS offers a way to limit their carbon emissions.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 06/2014

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