Coalition Considering Carbon Capture And Storage Support

Carbon capture and storage - CCS

The Morrison Government is reportedly giving serious consideration to carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a climate change mitigation policy.

CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions generated from the burning of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes and then shoving it somewhere “safe” – such as injecting it underground. It’s a little like sweeping dirt under a rug.

AFR reports Santos and Glencore executives have had meetings with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and senior ministers recently, pushing for CCS be accepted as climate policy – and to grab a chunk of the government’s $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund. The Fund was part of the climate policy Scott Morrison went into the election with that was earmarked for going into “low-cost abatement”. CCS isn’t a lot of things – including being low-cost.

CCS “A Useless Pipedream”

Greens climate and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP said the idea was another coal-fired thought bubble.

“CCS won’t save coal and won’t save people from the climate crisis. This apparent policy miracle has been hailed as the magic bullet for over a decade, but in reality it’s just a pipedream,” he stated. “If this government wants to invest in infrastructure, they should invest in clean, renewable energy to make Australia a renewable energy superpower.”

CCS Expensive, Risky, Still Unproven

There are all sorts of risks involved with carbon capture and storage, the most serious being catastrophic leaking events where a large amount of CO2 is released very quickly. This doesn’t just add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but as it is denser than air, initial accumulation in high concentrations low to the ground can prove fatal to humans and animals.

There are recorded cases of this happening, albeit natural events. One example was the Lake Nyos Disaster in northwestern Cameroon in 1986 where a limnic eruption released a large amount of carbon dioxide that killed 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock. However, I don’t think anyone is suggesting having huge underground storage facilities in populated areas.

But like nuclear waste, initially storing this CO2 is only part of the challenge. There will be an ongoing responsibility to ensure it stays where it’s meant to – for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Future generations may not be impressed by having this task foisted upon them.

Then there’s the cost. Even the best quality coal is a filthy fuel when it comes to carbon dioxide, so any effort to make it not quite so filthy increases the cost of electricity generation, and significantly. It also doesn’t deal with other toxic emissions produced by burning coal.

Last year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis pegged the cost of CCS in North America at that time at around USD $66 per megawatt hour. Even a long term goal of USD $33 per megawatt hour for CCS will make coal power significantly more expensive compared to wind or solar energy + storage.

The 2018 IEEFA report also noted:

“Billions of dollars have been spent for carbon capture research and development in North America, and rosy predictions for CCS have been ritually repeated year in and year out. However, today, 15 years after CCS development work began in earnest, there remains only one operational coal-fired carbon capture project in the U.S”

As for carbon capture and storage in Australia, RenewEconomy’s Michael Mazengarb points out $1.3 billion has been invested in carbon capture and storage projects here in the last 16 years – with little to show for it.

We seem to love burying stuff  – perhaps it’s CCS technology and the excuses for continuing to burn this problematic rock are what should be buried.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Ray McNamara says

    No real surprises here.
    ScoMo, Taylor, Kelly, and the rest are all captives of the Minerals Council.
    However, we have to keep on challenging their position, telling the truth about renewables, and hoping that the masses of gullible Australians keep on getting rooftop solar and learning about the true costs and benefits of renewables.
    It’s going to be a slow burn fir the next few years.
    Keep the stories coming.

    • Des Scahill says

      I agree with you Ray,

      It is important to keep challenging the many misleading arguments, partial truths, and deceptive statements made by some of the current denizens in the house of duplicity known as Federal Parliament.

      At present it seems on the surface, very much a case of ‘lies, lies everywhere, not a drop of truth to drink’ -to rephrase a well known quotation.

      But It’s also important not to tar every politician with the same overall brush, There are more among them than than you think who take their elected responsibilities seriously, but aren’t really in much of a position to influence policy directions to the extent you might think.

      What those representatives can do though is pass on to Ministers of various portfolios, the ‘concerns’ of the public they were elected to represent, especially if those are written letters.

      But of course if the public can’t even be bothered to do something as simple and as straightforward as that, your elected representative doesn’t have anything to work from as a starting point. Such letters are in a sense ‘evidence’ and can’t be fobbed off with ‘nothing but your opinion, so shut up’ or similar statements.

      Don’t forget – if you send a written letter, its also going to get read by the staff of the representative you sent it to, as well as other support staff and volunteers working in the offices of Ministers etc.

      There’s numerous Ministers, shadow Ministers and also Senators around, and there’s also clear guidelines regarding the format and content of letters that are sent to an MP to be found.

      Start with the main page at
      https://www.aph.gov.au/

      then go to the sub-header titled ‘Engage’ will take you to the sub-link
      https://www.aph.gov.au/Getting_Involved,

      and you use that link as the starting point for contacting a particular representative directly.

      As well, sending a signed written letter to the members electoral office, although seemingly an old-fashioned method, is preferable to electronic email, facebook comments, text messages and the like.

      Sure, its a pain in the butt in the beginning, but once you understand the ‘bureaucratic rules’, its worth the effort

      I’m not quite sure if its OK to ‘attach’ letters to an email as a .pdf file, but such also run the risk of simply getting ‘lost’ or ‘deleted’ for one reason or another.

  2. Ronald Brakels says

    New coal power stations without Carbon Capture and Storage aren’t competitive with current costs of renewable energy (including firming), so new coal power stations with CCS sure as hell won’t be competitive.

    The only way coal power stations with CCS would be built is if there is a high price on carbon, but with a high price on carbon only renewable energy capacity would be built. So, yeah, it’s nuts.

    This doesn’t mean shoving CO2 underground will never make any sense. If there is a source of CO2 such as from reducing iron, brewing beer, or cement production, sticking it under ground is a better option than just letting it into the atmosphere, even if it is not necessarily a perfect solution.

    But the Coalition isn’t interested in using breweries to offset carbon emissions. It’s all about coal because that’s how they reinforce loyalty in their circle. It’s hard to defect to another party when there is video of you denying that CO2 emissions have anything to do with climate change or bush fire risk.

  3. A couple of things to mention
    At the current state of CCS art you have to burn about 30% more coal to supply power to the CCS process. Nice little bonus.
    To be effective you have to guarantee that the CO2 will stay underground for say 10000 years. Make a list of things that man has built that are still in working condition 1000 tears later,
    I might be wrong but I thing the americans are saying they have successful capture if they get 30% of the CO2 in the flue gas in the underground storage

    In the US this all makes a lot more sense because there is a market for the CO2 There is a network of pipes over much of the USA shipping CO2 from power stations to oil wells where its pumped in to drive the oil out of the well
    As a secondary effect you fill an old oil well with CO2 and with a bit of luck it will stay there.
    Part of the theory of making this work is the idea that the CO2 will combine with something down there and form a stable solid compound that will last for 1000 years. If that’s the case then bring the other elements to the surface and react them with the CO2 in an efficient and controlled reaction and then shove the product down the hole

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