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Governments Investing in CCS Demonstrations

Recent global action to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is unprecedented. (Update: U.S. FutureGen Project revived.)

(The U.S. Department of Energy announced on Friday, June 12 that it is moving forward on the FutureGen Project in Mattoon, IL. Once built, FutureGen would be the country's first commercial-scale integrated CCS project.)

New project funding announced last month in the European Union, Canada, Australia and the United States is building momentum for accelerating the use of CCS to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The G8’s goal of 20 demonstrations announced by 2010--a goal that once seemed insurmountable--could be within reach.

In Australia, the federal government allocated USD$2 billion to build between two and four coal-fired power plants, each generating up to 1,000 MW, that have CCS capabilities. This funding action came shortly after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the formation of the $70 million, investor-backed Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. (Note: All funding references in this article are in USD$.)

Canada, another coal-dependent country, announced a clean energy fund that offers nearly $600 million for CCS demonstration projects as part of its economic stimulus package.

The European Commission is also moving forward on CCS demonstrations. Last month, it submitted a call for proposals for large-scale plant demonstration. These plants would be the first in Europe to be equipped with CCS elements and would need to capture at least 250 MW of installed capacity. The proposal could cover newly built plants or existing plants, and nearly $1.5 billion will be allocated for this purpose.

The United States is also dedicating stimulus funding to CCS--$3.4 billion in total. $800 million will go to the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative to broaden its research on commercial-scale CCS deployment, and $1.52 billion will fund large-scale CCS from industrial sources (not coal-exclusive). While the scale of the projects are not as ambitious as those in Europe or Australia, $1 billion of remaining stimulus funding could be used to restart the cancelled FutureGen project. In addition, recent bills in Congress, including the American Clean Energy and Security Act and S. 1013, may also speed demonstration in the United States.

However, the size of the projects matter. CCS has already been demonstrated to work at small plants, but in order for CCS to contribute substantially to reducing greenhouse gases, the projects need to be demonstrated at a large power plant.

Recent global government action is a step in the right direction, but we need to move forward with implementation quickly.

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