It takes courage to be first. We know from the history of innovation that technology improves over time and through replication. This is seen in any industry and any innovation humans have created. If we had stopped at the first mobile phone, we would still be plugged into the wall.
With new technologies, there is always room to optimize and improve development processes. Many of the common hurdles for large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) can be addressed when projects share knowledge and do not start from ground zero in their development. Indeed, it is the genius of human invention that leads to next iterations and generations. Such is the case with the world’s first (and globally renowned) Boundary Dam 3 CCS Facility in Saskatchewan (BD3). That facility, having surpassed four million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) captured and prevented from entering the atmosphere, makes a significant contribution to managing greenhouse gases.
By building on the shoulders of this facility, next-generation CCS technology will be significantly cheaper, more efficient and integrate well with renewable energy and other sectors. For instance, Shell has said that if the Quest CCS project were to be built today, it would cost about 30 per cent less thanks to capital efficiency improvements. A second-generation BD3 -type project at double the size is projected to have costs 67 per cent lower per tonne of captured CO2 than the first.
CO2 highway and hubs improve business cases
A hub of CCS activity like Alberta’s Carbon Trunk Line is a good way to stimulate infrastructure dollars that can be actively utilized by several industries. With this access to the storage part of CCS via the nearby transportation route, others may now be considering capturing carbon at their facilities. In the same way that governments function to provide infrastructure dollars for shared road usage, a CO2 highway, with on- and off-ramps, is a great example of where government dollars could have an exponential impact.
It is important to note that CCS is applicable beyond energy sectors and can be applied to industrial sources of emissions such as iron, steel and cement, which have limited abatement options due to unavoidable CO2 emissions generated through production processes. An in-depth study by the International CCS Knowledge Centre looks at the feasibility of carbon capture on the Lehigh Cement plant in Edmonton.
The benefits of deploying large-scale CCS are substantial for the country. From helping Canada achieve its emissions reductions to spurring economic growth, boosting productivity, and supporting the diversification of Canada’s economy, CCS technology plays a vital part in creating an economically sustainable route to deep emissions cuts.
Incentives are a kick-start
The construction and development of three CCS projects would generate $2.7 billion in GDP across Canada and support more than 6,100 jobs over the construction horizon. A high degree of these economic impacts is viewed as being incremental, given current levels of unemployment in regions where these projects would be developed. The investment in climate action is not cheap. The discussion ought to include the cost of not doing CCS. This is twofold.
First, from an emissions perspective — this country, along with other nations of the world, cannot meet its emissions reductions commitments without including large-scale CCS in its strategy. CCS takes megatonne bites out of the emissions problem — at least an additional 15 million tonnes (Mt) a year, according to the 2021 federal budget.
Second, the cost for climate mitigation without the inclusion of large-scale CCS would increase 138 per cent just to stay under 2 C. To get to net zero by 2050, that means eight gigatonnes of CO2 have to be captured.
While it is imperative for sectors to transition from a reliance solely on government “handouts” to industry uptake, government support remains crucial. This, coupled with policy certainty, is a necessary next step to aid in the cost hurdles of deployment until they are reduced with scalable iterations. Which is why incentive opportunities for CCS are drawing attention from global governments to examine if tax policy measures have potential. With the United States’ ramp-up to move forward on climate action, this is the right time for Canada to keep pace from a competitive and a jurisdictional perspective, since we share many similarities in geography, industry and economy.
Canada's new greenhouse gas emissions target
Canada’s renewed target aims to reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This is also Canada’s international goal under the Paris Agreement. In order to do so, large-scale, emissions-intensive industrial and power generation processes must be significantly decarbonized. To meet these targets, Canada needs to advance on many clean technologies rapidly and simultaneously. There isn’t a “silver bullet” — we need an all-shots-on-net approach. And given the urgency, that must include further leadership in large-scale CCS in the near term. If we are serious about reducing emissions, then we better be serious about large-scale CCS.
Beth (Hardy) Valiaho is the vice-president of strategy and stakeholder relations with the International CCS Knowledge Centre.
According to a report
According to a report published at https://foe.scot/resource/report-carbon-capture-storage-energy-role/
There are just 26 operational CCS plants in the world, with 81% of carbon captured to date used to extract more oil via the process of Enhanced Oil Recovery [EOR], and at this stage CCS planned deployment remains dominated by EOR.
Calling it "carbon storage" when it's being used to extract more carbon from the ground is greenwashing. The money budgeted for CCS is just another subsidy for the oil industry, as far as i can see.
Interesting opinion, but who
Interesting opinion, but who funds the International CCS Knowledge Centre where the author works? Looks like the Centre runs on a $20M contribution from BHB Billiton, a large Australian resource company? This opinion piece reads like a pitch an industry lobbyist would give to government in order to convince it to fund projects that are clearly in the industries' own self interest. CCS may have a role to play in fighting climate change, but it is a role that must be very carefully designed and controlled. We should be very careful about putting public money into CCS, unless other steps reduce fossil fuel consumption are also taken.
If industry wants to invest
If industry wants to invest in CCS, go for it. Just keep your hands out of my pockets.
No way should taxpayers be on the hook to clean up industry's pollution problem. Polluter pay. Part of the cost of doing business. If you can't afford clean-up and pollution control, you should not be in business.
Oilsands companies can pay for carbon capture without taxpayer help:
"Canadian Natural expects to generate up to C$5.4 billion in free cash flow in 2021, from C$692 million last year. Suncor projects additional cash flow of C$400 million this year and C$1 billion by 2023. Cenovus could generate C$3.5 billion this year, analysts at investment bank Morgan Stanley estimate, from a loss last year."
AB's oil & gas industry has barely started to fund its clean-up liabilities: north of $260 billion. The industry is turning to taxpayers for bailouts while milking govts for subsidies.
AB Premier Jason Kenney asked the federal govt for $30 billion in funding to explore carbon capture technologies.
Valiaho's analysis ignores
Valiaho's analysis ignores opportunity costs. CCS is one of the most expensive and least efficient methods to reduce emissions.
The two projects now online in AB required govt subsidy to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to capture a tiny fraction of emissions — and only from large emitters.
Current emission reductions from the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line are a drop in the bucket. $1.2 billion to bury 1.8 Mt of CO2 a year. $495 million from AB taxpayers. $63.2 million from Canadian taxpayers. $558 million in tax dollars for a drop in the bucket in emission reductions.
If the AB govt had invested $495 million in public transit, energy efficiency and conservation, building retrofits, and renewables, it could have cut far more than 1.6 Mt.
Valiaho: "Boundary Dam 3 CCS Facility in SK (BD3). That facility, having surpassed 4 Mt of CO2 captured and prevented from entering the atmosphere, makes a significant contribution to managing GHGs."
40% below design estimates.
Compare Canada's annual output of 730 Mt CO2eq. (2019)
"SaskPower has decided already against expanding CCS to two more coal plants, BD4 and BD5, that are part of the Boundary Dam complex." (CBC)
Canada currently captures only 4-5 Mt of CO2 per year. On the order of emissions from PEI and the three Arctic territories. (2019)
Globally, CCS projects stored around 50 Mt in 2020. On the order of emissions from Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. 0.1% of global annual carbon emissions.
Expensive and energy-intensive, CCS simply perpetuates the fossil fuel regime. Industry likes CCS (especially for enhanced oil recovery), as long as govt subsidizes it.
No, we must not. And I'm not
No, we must not. And I'm not just saying "we don't need to", I'm saying going big on carbon capture would ACTIVELY GET IN THE WAY of meeting our climate goals.
So there are two basic scenarios for CCS: Using it to make fossil fuel power plants less carbon intensive, and using it in big industrial factories that currently burn stuff to power whatever industrial thing they're doing. The first scenario is simple: Wind and solar are now cheaper than fossil fuel plants even without the massive extra expense and reduction in efficiency from adding CCS to them. So CCS is a stupid idea; just dump the fossil fuel power plants and build wind farms and solar panels. For that, what we need is to go big on energy storage and maybe grid improvement, not CCS.
The second scenario is IMO almost as simple: Industry should be running on electricity, not combustion. This is the 21st century, why are we powering factories by burning things? Steel is an edge case, but even there, there are technologies for making steel that don't involve burning coal to heat the metal. You still have to inject a bit of carbon, but you don't have to do that by burning it.
"Going big" on CCS would involve spending a ton of money to get a lousy solution when we could have spent less money to get a good solution. It is being proposed purely as a form of greenwashing and as a delay tactic, not as a real solution to anything. The fossil fuel industry talking about CCS and hydrogen reminds me of a kid desperately fending off his bedtime.
Let us invest our scarce
Let us invest our scarce resources in REAL climate solutions: renewables (including R&D) and storage; connecting smart grids; energy conservation and efficiency; public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure; redesigning cities for people, not cars; and hitting the brakes on urban sprawl. (EV subsidies don't make the list.)
All provide a far bigger bang for our climate buck. Reducing more emissions at lower cost.
CCS is at best an expensive distraction. A delay tactic to keep the oil & gas industry on life support for decades.
Huge expense for tiny emissions reduction at taxpayers' expense.
Valiaho: "There isn’t a 'silver bullet' — we need an all-shots-on-net approach."
No logic to this. Obviously, we should avoid expensive, inefficient, impractical, unviable, and non-existent technologies and solutions.
CCS ranks high on that list.
Sara Hastings-Simon, formerly of the Pembina Institute, warns against expensive technological fixes as a form of delay.
"Beware of climate delay, masquerading as climate action" (CBC)
Notwithstanding the excellent
Notwithstanding the excellent points already made, and under the assumption that no CCS should be used to produce additional fossil fuel products, what was missing from the piece was the NET saving of CO2e with CCS. One look at the picture of the absorber tower, showing only part of the facility, raises additional concerns about the energy expended on producing the facility in the first place.
How much CO2e was produced in the mining/quarrying of the metals and minerals; the refining/production of the metals and ALL other products used in the facility; the transportation/storing/delivery of the materials; the construction of the facility; the source of energy for powering the facility, etc.? How many years of operation will it take to break even in terms of CO2e? And a that point, what are the numbers for the expected remaining life span of the equipment before some/most/all of it needs to be replaced, and we start all over again?
I would venture, that currently at least, most of those stages listed above involve the consumption of fossil fuel products. Until that changes, this is not a "sustainable solution". GDP and other economic constructs are one thing, but the planet doesn't give a hoot about the tonnes saved. It's the net amount we emit that it reacts to. Hoping the ocean will eventually absorb the CO2 is a bad idea. We need to stop emitting it in the first place. In fact, we need to draw down the current atmospheric CO2 to avoid serious long-term consequences. That may justify use of CCS in extracting CO2 from the atmosphere in the long run, but we're clearly not there yet as a practical execution of the concept.
Regenerative agricultural practices using carbon and nutrient-fixing cover crops throughout the diaspora of Canadian farms will in no doubt prove far more affordable way to drawdown massive volumes of atmospheric CO2 than industrial-scale CCS. And nature does the brunt of the work through photosynthesis and plant respiration free of charge. Eliminating the burning of fossil fuels from our economy will be the icing on the cake.
This idea in context with the exemplary commentary, critiques and ideas above offer a major contribution to realistic solutions.