WRI’s Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) project works with policymakers and the private sector to develop solutions to the policy, regulatory, investment, environmental and social challenges associated with CCS demonstration and deployment.
Worldwide increases in energy demand coupled with a continued reliance on fossil fuel resources have contributed to a significant increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). This increase shows no signs of slowing. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) World Energy Outlook 2010 main scenario, the projected growth in energy demand will translate into a 21 percent rise in energy related CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2035, mostly due to robust economic growth in developing countries. This quantity of greenhouse gas emissions would make it next to impossible to meet the 2ºC goal to avoid the worst consequences of global climate change without additional actions to mitigate them.
Scenarios for stabilizing climate-forcing emissions suggest atmospheric CO2 stabilization can only be accomplished through the development and deployment of a robust portfolio of solutions, including significant increases in energy efficiency and conservation in the industrial, building, and transport sectors; increased reliance on renewable energy and potentially additional nuclear energy sources; and deployment of CCS. Slowing and stopping emissions growth from the energy sector will require transformational changes in the way the world generates and uses energy.
CCS is a broad term that encompasses a number of technologies that can be used to capture CO2 from point sources, such as power plants and other industrial facilities; compress it; transport it mainly by pipeline to suitable locations; and inject it into deep subsurface geological formations for indefinite isolation from the atmosphere. CCS is a critical option in the portfolio of solutions available to combat climate change, because it allows for significant reductions in CO2 emissions from fossil-based systems, enabling it to be used as a bridge to a clean and sustainable energy future.
In technology development there is a period referred to as the “valley of death,” where a technology has been proven in the laboratory and on a small scale, but has yet to become commercially viable. CCS technology has progressed quickly from being a concept to a key part in proposed climate change mitigation plans. This progression is partly the result of early successes in pilot capture demonstrations and field validation tests, where small volumes of CO2 have been injected for research purposes. It is also due in large part to the experience that has been gained injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery over the past three and a half decades. There are skeptics who believe that CCS remains infeasible, with continued interest driven by the lack of any other viable solution that would allow the continued use of coal. To achieve the potential benefits of CCS and prove that safe and permanent storage can be realized, it is important to continue large-scale demonstration and deployment of this technology.
Although the CCS industry is still in its formative stages, there is a growing body of data from demonstrations, analogous regulatory experience, and industrial best practices already available to guide the technology’s development. As the knowledge and understanding of the suite of CCS technologies grow, these emerging best practices will inform regulatory frameworks and industrial procedures as the technology is deployed over time.