Post Paris, should we be going for CCCS = Compulsory Carbon Capture and Storage? Part 3

CSIRO_ScienceImage_3031_Postcombustion_carbon_capture_technologyToday as we celebrate World Earth Day 2016 and leaders head to New York to sign the Paris Climate Agreement at UN Head Quarters we publish the last part of a three-part interview by Shayne MacLachlan of the OECD Environment Directorate with Kamel Ben Naceur, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks at the IEA

SMacL: Are there any countries where policies that support CCS are in place, and why aren’t more governments following your CCS recommendations to prevent an overshoot in emissions?

KBN: Many countries have recognised the importance of CCS and are implementing policies to support its development and future deployment, including through investment in national CO2 storage assessments and pilot RD&D programs. A good example is Japan, which is undertaking site surveys to identify CO2 storage opportunities in parallel with an integrated pilot project at Tomakomai. The challenge for policy makers in Japan and elsewhere is to build these efforts towards large-scale CCS deployment – a task that will require significant public investment and long-term political commitment.

The United States and Canada are currently leading the way with large-scale CCS deployment, hosting 15 of the 22 projects expected to be in operation before 2020. To a large extent this has been underpinned by EOR opportunities which provide a much-needed revenue stream for the captured CO2 and eliminate uncertainty around storage availability.

Beyond these projects, it would be fair to say that global CCS deployment efforts lack a sense of urgency and reflect a tendency to focus on alternative low emission technology options that are perhaps easier to deploy in the short-term. Yet the message from the IEA and others is clear: CCS will be essential if we are to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

SMacL: Do you think that making CCS compulsory, as a condition of extracting fossil carbon out of the ground, is an option worth considering?

KBN: I would recommend that governments be flexible in identifying opportunities to support early CCS deployment. Mandating CCS as a general condition for coal, gas or oil extraction is unlikely to be practical or effective in supporting CCS deployment, as these resources are often traded or exported and their end-use is beyond the influence of the producer. However, there may well be targeted opportunities to implement policies to achieve a similar outcome. For example, Australia’s Gorgon LNG project will soon be the largest CO2 storage project in the world, and the requirement to capture and store the CO2 from the natural gas processing was imposed by the Government as a condition for project approval.

SMacL: There seem to be as many articles these days about how we can recycle, or use CO2 as there are about CCS. Is the use of CO2 just one type of CCS that can make emissions reduction more profitable, or is it something else entirely?

KBN: The utilisation of captured CO2 can make a major difference to the economics of CCS projects. More than half of the large-scale CCS projects currently in operation are associated with EOR, and global EOR activities use around 70 Mt of CO2 each year. Approximately 50 Mt of this is from naturally occurring sources, but in time this could be replaced with CO2 captured from power and industrial facilities. With appropriate site characterisation and monitoring, CO2-EOR can provide a permanent storage solution.

Alternative utilisation technologies such as mineral carbonation and CO2 concrete curing have the potential to provide long-term storage in building materials, but in general these opportunities are limited and would not be an alternative to geological storage. Similarly, today’s commercial uses of CO2, including for chemical solvents, refrigerants, decaffeination of coffee and carbonation of soft drinks are at relatively small scale. For example, the global beverage industry uses around 8 Mt of CO2 each year, which is approximately 0.5% of the CO2 that would need to be captured and stored in 2030 in the IEA 2 degree scenario.

The conversion of CO2 to liquid fuels could potentially replace fossil fuels (thereby reducing emissions) but would not deliver the same net climate benefit as geological storage as the CO2 is ultimately re-released.

SMacL: Do you think it’s inevitable that we’ll use the remaining stocks of fossil carbon in the ground? If we don’t choose to use CCS, by when do we need to stop using fossil fuels in the power sector?

KBN: It is in no way inevitable that we will use all of our global fossil fuel resources, particularly considering we still have more than 120 years of coal resources based on current production rates. Even with widespread deployment of CCS, this level of coal use would be incompatible with global climate goals.

In the event that CCS were not available for power generation, it is likely that fossil fuels will continue to feature with a significant percentage in the electricity mix until at least 2050. In the IEA 2 degree scenario, unabated coal and gas still account for around 16% of global capacity in 2050. A decision not to deploy CCS in the power sector would also remove the opportunity for negative emissions through BECCS, which may have wider implications for how quickly we can transition to net zero emissions globally.

Useful links

IEA work on carbon capture and storage

Post Paris, should we be going for CCCS = Compulsory Carbon Capture and Storage? Part 2

CSIRO_ScienceImage_3031_Postcombustion_carbon_capture_technologyToday we publish the second part of a three-part interview by Shayne MacLachlan of the OECD Environment Directorate with Kamel Ben Naceur, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks at the IEA

SMacL: I’d like to know more about the assertion that CCS is the only known technology that can reduce CO2 emissions from various industrial activities, such as iron and steel, chemical and cement production. Can you explain why this is the case and whether there are any competing alternatives under development? How much would CCS raise the cost of a tonne of steel or cement?

KBN: CCS can play an important role in the decarbonisation of various industrial processes and, in some cases, may be the only option for deep emission cuts. For example, the production of iron, steel and cement emit CO2 from generating heat and electricity, but also from chemical reactions inherent in the process, including the reduction of iron ore to iron and the heating of limestone to produce cement. There are some emissions in industrial processes which can be reduced through energy efficiency and switching to low carbon heat and electricity generation, but CCS is needed to reduce the majority of emissions generated in these processes.

The increase in the cost of a tonne of product due to CCS depends on a range of factors including the process, technologies and the proportion of CO2 being captured. The indicative cost increase per tonne of steel, depending on the production technology, could be USD150 to USD250.

SMacL: The IEA has said that CCS gives the fossil fuel industry, and especially coal resource holders, a chance to protect the assets they have. Why haven’t large fossil fuel companies poured more resources into the development and implementation of this technology?

KBN: The IEA has highlighted that the deployment of CCS becomes a major determinant of the demand for fossil fuels in a climate constrained future. In our 2 degree scenario, more than 95% of coal-fired power generation and 40% of gas-fired generation will need to come from plants equipped with CCS by 2050. Deployment of CCS therefore presents an opportunity for fossil fuel resource holders to secure future demand and revenue, which the IEA has estimated could amount to around $1.3 trillion each for coal and gas between now and 2040.

For owners of emissions-intensive assets, including coal and gas-fired power plants, CCS can also provide a type of insurance mechanism. The option of retrofitting CCS to planned or existing plants can prolong their economic life and reduce the risk of asset stranding.  With around half of global power generation owned by governments, there is also a strong public interest case for CCS.

An estimated USD13 billion in private investment has gone into large-scale CCS projects, including from fossil fuel and technology companies. This figure will need to increase by orders of magnitude if deployment of CCS is to be accelerated, however the conditions to support private investment have largely been absent. Policy and regulatory frameworks that provide targeted support for CCS and certainty for investors will be essential.

SMacL: If fossil fuel companies cannot be relied upon to deliver CCS on their own, what policies can governments put in place to stimulate the development and deployment of CCS? I have heard that carbon prices above fifty dollars would be needed, but is carbon pricing sufficient by itself?

KBN: CCS is an emissions reduction technology that will ultimately require a price on carbon if it is to be commercial. In the near-term, targeted policies will be needed to overcome the technical and commercial barriers to large-scale deployment – in much the same way that targeted policies have supported the deployment of renewable technologies with great success. Policy options for CCS include capital grants, taxation arrangements, regulation and (for power applications) feed-in-tariffs or contracts for difference which offset the higher operational costs associated with capturing and storing the CO2. Governments can also take a major step towards stimulating CCS deployment by identifying and developing CO2 storage infrastructure.

The costs of different CCS applications vary greatly. In natural gas processing, CO2 separation is already an inherent part of the process and the additional costs of CCS can be as low as USD5-20 per tonne of CO2 avoided. As an example, the investment in the Sleipner CCS project was in response to the Norwegian Government’s upstream CO2 tax, which in 1996 was around USD35 per tonne and currently stands at around USD50 per tonne. However the cost per tonne of CO2 avoided in power generation is significantly higher, at USD48-109 for a coal-fired power plant in the United States.

Useful links

IEA work on carbon capture and storage

Post Paris, should we be going for CCCS = Compulsory Carbon Capture and Storage?

Postcombustion carbon capture technology

Shayne MacLachlan, OECD Environment Directorate

You may have seen the film called “Tomorrow”, or under the non-translated title “Demain”, popping up in cinemas all over the place. It’s a French documentary focussing on positive action in 10 countries, showcasing concrete examples in agriculture, energy and education that aim to address our current environmental decline. It’s certainly an encouraging and uplifting watch but I admit to leaving the cinema still troubled by the numbers I see daily and why globally we can’t shake our addiction to carbon. Not only are most of our economies still dependent on fossil carbon for the majority of energy supply, carbon dioxide (CO2) lingers in our atmosphere for a very long time. Even if we stopped emitting the stuff tomorrow, most of it will remain in the atmosphere several centuries from now. According to researchers, “About 50% of a CO2 increase will be removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30% will be removed within a few centuries. The remaining 20% may stay in the atmosphere for many thousands of years.” Since the beginning of the industrial revolution (~250 years ago) we’ve released about 500 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil sources and deforestation. We are currently on a path towards releasing the second half-a-trillion tonnes in the next 40 years.

Clearly a revolution in the global economy is needed for a heavy reduction of GHG emissions. You may have heard of Carbon Capture and Storage or CCS. This technology prevents CO2 from fossil fuel combustion from accumulating in the atmosphere. In its most common form, this is achieved by capturing the CO2 after combustion at an industrial facility or power plant before it is emitted, then transporting it in a pipeline to a suitable location for permanent storage deep underground in rock formations. These rock formations could be depleted oil and gas reservoirs, such as those where natural gas had been naturally stored for millions of years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sees a big role for CCS in making a low carbon transition possible, both by tackling emissions from heavy industry and helping wean the power sector off fossil fuels at a politically feasible pace.

In the IEA’s scenario for tackling climate change at lowest cost, CCS makes up 13% of CO2 emissions reductions by 2050 compared to business-as-usual (see chart). The IEA’s Executive Director, Fatih Birol, has said that CCS “is an emissions reduction technology that will need to be widely deployed to achieve our low-carbon future” but the IEA has repeatedly noted that progress in CCS deployment is slower than was hoped for.

Contribution of technologies and sectors to global cumulative CO2 reductions link

CO2 reduction

Source: IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2015

In a three-part interview, I talked to Kamel Ben Naceur, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks at the IEA, to find out how delays in CCS might risk the low-carbon transition and what is being done to advance it.

  1. What is the situation for CCS in 2016? How many projects are up and running and, at up to a billion dollars per project, how should we judge their value for money?

There has been considerable momentum in the deployment of CCS in recent times. We now have 15 large-scale CCS projects operating throughout the world, and 7 more are expected to come online in the next two years. By 2020, these 22 projects will collectively be capturing as much as 48 million tonnes of CO2 each year from coal-fired power generation, natural gas processing, steel manufacturing, and fertiliser and hydrogen production.

These projects are providing essential hands-on experience and enabling learning by doing technology cost reductions. For example, the operators of the Boundary Dam project in Canada, which is the first large-scale project to apply CCS to a coal-fired power plant, believe they could reduce the costs of the next plant by 30%. The value of these first-of-a-kind projects therefore needs to be considered not just in pure dollar terms but in terms of their contribution to ensuring CCS technologies are understood and available at a lower cost for future deployment.

Unfortunately, beyond the current wave of projects, there are very few new CCS projects being planned and there is a real risk that today’s momentum will soon be lost without policy intervention.

  1. Following December’s Paris Agreement on Climate Change, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for CCS if we are to transition to a net zero emissions future. Can you explain what this means in practice?

All low emission energy technologies, including CCS, will have an important role to play in supporting a faster transition to net zero emissions and in meeting the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed that many long-term climate models are not able to constrain future temperature increases to 2 degrees or less if the availability of CCS and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) is limited.

This reflects the unique contribution of CCS not only in directly reducing emissions from the use of fossil fuels, but in supporting negative emissions technologies that permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere. Negative emissions may be needed to extend carbon budgets and balance “stubborn” emissions that are difficult to eliminate, for example in aviation or agriculture. BECCS is one of the most advanced negative emissions technologies but other more nascent technologies such as Direct Air Capture or artificial trees will also depend on the availability of geological storage.

In practice, this means that investment in the identification and development of geological storage facilities will be important, both as a solution to fossil fuel emissions and to ensure that we retain the option of deploying these negative emissions technologies in the future.

  1. How certain can we be that there’s sufficient storage capacity for the CO2 and are we sure it will stay underground?

With more than 20 years of experience in large-scale CO2 injection, storage and monitoring, there is a high degree of confidence that the CO2 will stay underground.  Since 1996, the Sleipner project in Norway has been injecting more than 1 million tonnes a year into a deep saline formation in the North Sea. Naturally-occurring CO2 has also been injected into oil reservoirs in the United States for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) purposes since the 1960s. Provided that the geological storage sites are appropriately characterised and selected, with natural trapping mechanisms, the CO2 is very unlikely to migrate to the surface. Advanced monitoring techniques have also been developed which enable early identification and intervention should the CO2 not behave as expected.

Estimates of global storage resources indicate that capacity should be more than sufficient. The IEA has assessed that, by 2050, as much as 360 GtCO2 could technically be stored just through EOR operations, in a scenario where operators placed emphasis on maximising CO2 storage alongside oil production. This is around 3 times greater than the storage requirements in the IEA’s 2 degree scenario. However, investment in storage exploration and development is needed to better define this storage capacity at a regional level and to support future planning for CCS-dependent facilities.

Useful links

IEA work on carbon capture and storage

The Haze Surrounding Climate Mitigation Statistics

Suzi Tart, OECD Environment Directorate

How have CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions changed since 1990? Three different visuals tell three very different stories. Which perspective offers the most clarity?

Perspective #1:

Perspecctive 1

This first visual shows the percent increase or decrease of GHG emissions.[1] It is pretty predictable, telling us the story with which we are most familiar. The bubbles of China and the US are the obvious giants in the room. Together they contributed 35% of global GHG emissions in 2010.

China conspicuously dominates the map with a 178% increase in its emissions from 1990-2010. Much of China’s explosive economic growth has been dependent upon coal, so this is not surprising. India and Indonesia’s bubbles pale in comparison with that of China’s—yet their growth rates of 108% and 73% are still significant, leaving Asia with an average 95% increase in emissions. Oceania also witnessed a fairly significant increase of 22%, yet compared to Asia, this seems miniscule.

The giant bubble on the other side of the room represents the United States. Unlike China, which has a relatively small yellow core compared to its red layer, the U.S. has a relatively large core and small red layer. While both countries have increased their emissions over time, the United States has witnessed slower growth, and its GHG emissions have been on a declining trend since 2007.

Also noteworthy is Russia’s green bubble (representing a decrease, see page 51 of the linked publication). Keeping in mind that Russia transitioned to a market economy and experienced a collapse of its carbon-intensive industries in the 1990s, it is not that surprising. Nor are all those tiny green bubbles dotting the European Union, which has been championing climate change action. While the colour of the bubbles is important to note, so too, is their size. Although Russia is green like the rest of Europe, its fugitive emissions from the oil and gas sector alone amount to more than the total GHG emissions of Spain.

Perspective #2:

Perspective 2

The second visual tells a more intriguing story. This one depicts CO2 emissions in relation to population size. Here, China’s bubble appears quite small…even smaller than that of Hong Kong. What is even more striking is how big the bubbles in the Middle East are. Qatar leads the world on this map, with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia not far behind. Rich in oil and with high demand for energy and transport, these countries have larger bubbles than they did on the previous visual.

Another significant trend is the relative size of the bubbles for some island and port economies. Singapore and Chinese Taipei stand out. Trinidad & Tobago also appears unusually large and isolated. The country has strong petrochemical and power generation sectors, which are behind these massive relative emissions. Some have noted that foreign companies largely own these industries, and that most of their production is exported. Such issues open the debate as to which countries’ bubbles should actually represent the emissions—those where the emissions are produced, or those where the emissions are consumed. While it is interesting to think about this in terms of the global economy, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) ruled on this matter in the 1990s, deciding once and for all that emission inventories would be based on production.

Once again, Europe is covered with green (declining) bubbles, although they are bigger in this visual. Luxembourg, which enjoys the second highest GDP per capita in the world and has low taxes on road fuels, has much larger per capita emissions than many other European countries. The high per capita emissions also applies to the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) region, where many of the bubbles are not that much smaller than the bubbles of the United States and Canada.

Perspective #3:

Perspective 3

The third and final visual is strikingly green. Every continent has achieved an average negative rate of emissions per unit of gross domestic product using purchasing power parity rates (GDP PPP). That’s great news for the planet—you’d almost be fooled into thinking we’re winning the war on emissions. It indicates that most nations are now successfully decoupling GHG emissions from GDP growth. Technology has allowed countries to continue to grow while producing fewer emissions.

At first glance, Zimbabwe seems to be leading the pack. Unfortunately, the size of its bubble is most likely related to the hyperinflation it experienced in the early 2000s, and larger economic woes that have affected it as a result. EECCA shows up yet again, even more so than in the second visual. This testifies to the dominant coal, oil and gas industries in many of these countries, with the shrinking bubble sizes evidence of their efforts to clean up these industries—alternative energy production and energy efficiency targets are on the rise in many of these countries.

Does bubble size really matter?

As COP21 edges closer, accusations will fly faster, and fingers are sure to be pointed with greater passion. Yet this is a global problem and we all pollute and breathe the same air, so it is much like the right hand pointing at the left. Equity issues always arise during climate change negotiations. Some countries pollute a lot, others only a little. Some countries are producers, others consumers. Industrialised countries that burned fossil fuels in the past have contributed most to the situation we are in today. Developing countries seem to be the ones paying the biggest price yet are starting to burn more fossil fuel.

These maps show that all countries can play a role in limiting climate change. In fact, it will be impossible to combat climate change unless the world’s economies are fully committed. The sheer quantity of emissions is a crucial factor to consider in the negotiations; yet so too, is the amount of effort countries put into solving the issue of climate change. Perhaps if we used the colour and size of countries’ bubbles to assess effort, the world might see greater results.

Useful links

OECD on the road to COP21

[1] Data is taken from the EDGAR database, which includes partial coverage of emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (direct emissions from forest fires, emissions from decay of aboveground biomass that remains after logging and deforestation, emissions from peat fires and decay of drained peat soils).

Waste management: Does the OECD practice what it preaches?

You don’t want to know what they do with the bottles

Today’s post is from Liisa-Maija Harju, Environmental Coordinator in the OECD Operations Service

Each year OECD countries generate over four billion tonnes of waste. By 2020, we could be generating 45% more waste than we did in 1995.

OECD’s work on waste management focuses on promoting sustainable materials management in order to limit waste generation in the first place. According to the recent report Greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for mitigation from materials management within OECD countries, in most OECD countries, at least 4 percent of current annual GHG emissions could be mitigated if waste management practices were improved. The report focuses on municipal solid waste that forms only a portion of total waste generation across OECD countries.

Typically GHG emissions from the waste sector have accounted for 3% to 4% of total emissions in OECD member countries’ GHG emission inventories. This approach might be outdated because it only considers direct emissions primarily from landfill methane emissions and incinerators.

A systems view would be needed to assess GHG emissions associated with materials and waste because materials production, consumption and end-of-life management are so closely linked together. Looking at the whole life cycle would allow for the inclusion of GHG emissions from the acquisition, production, consumption, and end-of-life treatment of physical goods in the economy.

When viewed from a life-cycle perspective, GHG emissions arising from materials management activities are estimated to account for 55% to 65% of national emissions for four OECD member countries studied. This suggests that there is a significant opportunity to potentially reduce emissions through modification and expansion of materials management policies. The report also reminds us that basic recycling and source reduction are effective tools to reduce total GHG emissions.

How about us here at the OECD itself? The OECD Secretariat’s total  GHG footprint amounted to approximately 9332 metric tonnes CO2-equivalent in 2010. Our GHG Inventory tool does not include waste management directly, and we don’t yet have the means to calculate the real GHG emissions savings of our waste management efforts.

Since 2008 we have sorted paper, and in the past four years the total amount of waste produced has gone down by 45%, although the baseline was exceptionally high because we moved offices over 2007-2009 when our headquarters buildings were being refurbished and the new conference centre built. In 2011 the Secretariat produced 477 tonnes of waste (of which 274 tonnes was paper waste) compared to 861 tonnes of waste in 2008 (of which 363 tonnes was paper waste). Last year we installed a machine that allows for the compression of bottle, can, cardboard, and paper waste at our facilities before transportation, cutting down the number of truck trips needed to take away the waste.

To further improve our waste management infrastructure, we will install a comprehensive sorting system for bottles and cans this June. Hopefully we will be able to switch our focus to sustainable materials management and the prevention of all the waste in the first place so that by 2020 we will be generating at least 45% less waste than we did in 2011.

Useful links

OECD work on greenhouse gas mitigation and materials management

OECD work on sustainable materials management

OECD work on material flow analysis