Carbon capture: a climate solution or a big fraud?

The Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN) explains that carbon capture and storage is a combination of technologies designed to prevent the release of carbon dioxide generated through conventional power generation and industrial production processes. It is done by injecting the carbon dioxide into a suitable underground storage reservoir.

Carbon Capture Launch, the official launch of the Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage facility in Estevan o
Carbon Capture Launch, the official launch of the Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage facility in Estevan on Oct. 2, 2014. | Courtesy: SaskPower/Flickr

In short, capture technology separates carbon dioxide emissions from the process. After which the compressed carbon dioxide is transported to a suitable geological storage location and injected.

Read more: CO2 capture technologies | Climate Technology Centre & Network | Tue, 11/08/2016

Benefits of Carbon capture technology

According to the British Geological Survey, carbon dioxide can be captured from large sources such as power plants, gas processing facilities and industrial processes.

Read more: Understanding carbon capture and storage – British Geological Survey

The International Energy Agency (IEA) states the benefits of using carbon capture technologies such as:

  1. Retrofitting the power sector with carbon capture technologies will help in addressing emissions from existing fossil fuels.
  2. Carbon capture technologies are important for achieving climate objectives, particularly in countries that heavily depend on fossils for power generation and where renewable energy potential is limited.
  3. The use of carbon capture for gas in power generation can help in avoiding 300 MtCO2 by 2040.

Read more: How carbon capture technologies support the power transition – The role of CCUS in low-carbon power systems – Analysis – IEA

Carbon Capture and Storage at a Glance; At Boundary Dam Power Station, the carbon capture-equipped unit 3 will emit 100,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, as opposed to 1.1 million tonnes before
Carbon Capture and Storage at a Glance; At Boundary Dam Power Station, the carbon capture-equipped unit 3 will emit 100,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, as opposed to 1.1 million tonnes before | Courtesy: SaskPower/Flickr

Is carbon capture just a disguise for oil companies?

However, there has been controversy surrounding the carbon capture technology. The Climate Council states that carbon capture and storage is a license to ramp up emissions. Greg Bourne, Climate Councillor and Energy expert claims that

“Carbon capture and storage is not a climate solution, but an expensive attempt to prolong the role of fossil fuels in the energy system.”

Read more: What is Carbon Capture and Storage? | Climate Council

A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) reveals that the majority of carbon capture and storage technology have pumped captured gas into depleted oil fields in an effort to extract the last droplets of oil, the process is called Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

For example, about 28 million tonnes out of 39 million tonnes of carbon dioxide captured by multi-billion-dollar carbon capture and storage facilities is re-injected in oil fields. And, this is done to push more oil out of the ground.

Read more: The Carbon Capture Crux

The report also states that observing the total anthropogenic carbon humans have captured during the last 50 years demonstrates that carbon capture has benefitted the oil industry. IEEFA estimates that about 80-90% of the 300 million tonnes of carbon capture have been used for Enhanced Oil Recovery. Furthermore, only 10-20% of it has been stored in specific geological structures.

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