As the Financial Times said recently: "Few technologies have had so much money thrown at them for so many years by so many governments and companies, with such feeble results. To date there is just one carbon capture system in commercial operation at a power station, the Boundary Dam coal plant that Canada’s SaskPower utility opened last year. The Boundary Dam plant in Canada, which received $1billion Cdn in subsidies from various governments also signed a 10-year contract to sell its captured CO2 so the gas can be pumped into nearby ageing oilfields to boost waning recovery rates, a process known as enhanced oil recovery [EOR].
In practice, no one is holding their breath given the troubled history of carbon capture. CCS was a hot topic back in 2008 among the promoters of 'clean coal' , then it ran into multiple studies proving, as Grist said in its well researched article, 'We did the math on clean coal, and it doesn’t add up', that without massive government subsidies, even with EOR, couldn't make CCS viable and all agreed using the captured CO2 to produce more oil, which then produces more CO2 when burnt, is hardly the ideal way to tackle climate change.
Another problem is the permanence of storage schemes. Opponents to CCS claim that safe and permanent storage of CO2 cannot be guaranteed and that even very low leakage rates could undermine any climate mitigation effect. EOR maybe the only viable scheme that the fossil fuel giants have come up with to justify CCS but they remain silent on the technique’s potential environmental risks and impacts. In the US, for example, where there are already 12 million oil and gas wells, a quarter of which are abandoned, uncapped and unmonitored, and where the regulatory system is notoriously lax, what is the likelihood that CO2 will stay in the ground?
The reality, as BP found out just before abandoning its $2.3billionUS Salah project in Algeria, one of the few large scale CCS projects in the world, is that it was shut down indefinitely back in 2011 because the CO2 injection itself caused seismic activity that cracked the cap rock which highlighted the challenges of storing the gas indefinitely.
It's easy to see why the manufacturers of CCS systems want to promote their technology [money honey] and of course it makes sense that the oil industry would support the roll out of a technology which allows greater oil extraction. And CSS has always been used as a justification to keep building inefficient, poorly constructed coal fired power stations - the dirtiest possible way of producing electricity ever invented. As George Monbiot says: "We could be stuck with a new generation of coal-burning power stations, approved on the basis of a promise that never materialises, which commit us to massive emissions for 40 years."
But why does the IPCC continue to support this false hope? Because there's no way other than having CCS installed on all coal generation plants globally for the IPCC's climate models to generate the less than 2C rise in temperature they say must be achieved to avoid catastrophic global warming.
So during the next two weeks in Paris we'll hear plenty of hot air about global warming and plenty of booster-ism by the corporate criminals and the government stooges they've captured but nothing about a real solution to carbon sequestration, one that requires almost no subsidies, is safe, secure and lies under our feet - organic agriculture and the restoration of the planet's prairie grasslands. The problem with these simple, doable solutions is that they generate no huge profits for corporations, no skyrocketing stock markets for speculators, no boondoggles for bankers and billionaires and consequently no 'contributions' to politicians over or under the table.